Perhaps you or someone you know suffers from ongoing, intense pain. Sometimes pain is so severe that it brings you to your knees such as a kidney stone, herniated disks or migraine headaches. The kind of pain that keeps you from working, socializing or sleeping. You want the pain to stop – NOW. You’re so miserable that you will do anything to make it stop. Your doctor prescribes medication and rehabilitation, but maybe it’s not enough. So you take more pain meds. You could run the risk of becoming over dependent on medications, or addicted to pain medications. And then the medications become the problem. Painkiller addiction is one of the most common types of drug abuse and affects more people than you would imagine. Painkiller addiction can ruin lives and relationships, and cause death if not treated properly.
Depression sometimes sets in when the negative consequences of chronic pain persist. It is difficult to remain active and cheerful when the pain takes all your energy and attention.
There are three treatment modalities for pain, depending upon the severity of the problem. Pain Clinics, Pain Management Clinics and Addiction Treatment. A Pain Clinic is the first line of treatment to establish the cause of pain and to determine if it can be treated, and if so, what sort of treatment is appropriate.
Pain Management Clinics on the other hand address the management of pain that cannot be treated. For example, Mayo Clinic has a Pain Rehabilitation Program that provides patients with skills for self-managing pain and limits an over reliance on pain medications. They teach stress management, relaxation, appropriate exercise and nutrition, and offer alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, massage, counseling and acupuncture. Their goal is to improve overall functioning in spite of the pain and return to an active lifestyle.
Addiction Treatment is needed when an individual becomes addicted to pain killers (opiates). The number of deaths caused by pain killer abuse increased 160% between 1999 and 2004. Nearly one in five teens, or 4.5 million kids between the ages of 12-19 abuse prescription medications. A common sign of medication abuse is “doctor shopping” in order to access more pain killers. Some individuals will turn to drug dealers and some may switch to heroin. Heroin abuse has become a larger problem than methamphetamine in our community.
Pain has many negative consequences. What should you do?
1. Apply alternative treatment modalities to seek pain relief as a supplement to prescribed medications. Use resources of yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, and psychotherapy. This will help avoid over medication and improve coping skills.
2. Keep your medications safe from teens or others who would be tempted to abuse them. Dispose of your unused medications in a safe manner.
3. If you find that you are addicted to pain killers, get help.