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Narcotics and Chronic Pain

Using painkillers is like using a credit card

When you are in pain from an injury or a disorder, there are actually two things going on: your physical pain, and the suffering that comes along with that pain. These are 2 different things, but many times we link them together in our minds. So we have our actual pain, and then we have our suffering from that pain.

When we take an opiate painkiller (such as Vicodin, Darvocet, Percocet, Oxycontin, etc.), what we are actually doing is medicating our suffering, not our pain. Opiate based painkillers do not actually affect the pain at all. They do not work on the physical body in the way that, say, Ibuprofen actually reduces inflammation and lowers your physical pain. Instead, opiate painkillers medicate your suffering, not your pain. They simply flood the brain with those “feel good” chemicals so that your brain has an easier time of ignoring the physical pain. It’s a little bit like getting your brain drunk so that it can forget about the pain signals it is receiving.

So how is this like spending with a credit card?

Well, when you are suffering due to physical pain, you can either pay that suffering now, or you can pay it later….just like with a credit card. When you buy something with your credit card, you are choosing to pay later. If you take an opiate, you are choosing to suffer later. You can take a few opiate pills and medicate the suffering for a few hours, but then later on you will be faced with the same dilemma when the painkiller wears off. This is how you can quickly accumulate “debt” by attempting to continuously chase away your suffering (all the while trying to simply ignore the pain).

Now if you happen to have some very short term pain, this might not be much of a problem. But if you have the type of situation where the physical pain is going to last for a long time, or if you have chronic pain, then you can see how this might lead to real problems.

I work in a position where I have seen unsuspecting recovering alcoholics get hooked on prescription painkillers and end up getting themselves into a lot of trouble. So consider this a warning to everyone in recovery out there to think carefully before letting the doctor write you that prescription.

Here are some strategies you might consider:

1) Talk with your doctor and let them know you are a recovering addict or alcoholic and cannot take any addictive medications.

2) If your doctor insists, remind him that there are always alternatives to the addictive medications he might be suggesting.

3) If your doctor still insists, let him know that you are getting another doctor, one who is knowledgeable regarding addiction and recovery.

4) Seek alternative methods of treating pain. Focus on things that actually reduce the pain itself (as opposed to the suffering) and then treat the suffering using holistic methods.

submitted by worried878

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Start Date
Apr 29, 2009
by worried878
Last Revision
Nov 05, 2009
by worried878