Opioids, Pain Management, and Addiction
Perhaps, one of the foremost overlooked warning signs in the epidemic rise in opioid addictions is that most drug users have a clear choice when they begin taking addictive drugs. Their options could be weighed for risks versus benefits and future exposures either managed accordingly or avoided altogether. Not so, with pain management issues where opioid painkillers have been prescribed for everything from toothaches and headaches to chronic cancer pain.
We’ve seen the rise of opioids as a primary aspect of healthcare and medicinal profitability on an unprecedented level. Several pieces of legislation involving the opioid and heroin abuse epidemic were taken up by the House of Congress and according to Congresswoman Susan Brooks ,”Substance abuse disorders and chronic pain are interrelated public health crises that must be addressed simultaneously and with equality, one without the other is tantamount to worsening each individual crisis.”
Opioids and Pain Management
When people have accidents or health causes for pain management, prescribing practices call for opioids as an essential medication when other analgesics are ineffective. Certainly, in a physical sense, there is an overwhelming need to restore stability in those suffering from acute or chronic pain. In emergency rooms and private practices, alike, there is a tough call for any physician to avoid under serving the pain management needs of their patients.
Opioids have a special effect on brain and central nervous system functions by mimicking natural chemical messengers and responses that reinforce behaviors worth repeating such as eating, sleeping, or having sex. It’s difficult to stop taking the drugs even when the initial pain management issue has been resolved and there is a much different scenario to contemplate when opioid users with physical needs to control pain warrant the continued use of the drugs even when other biological, emotional, and social declines begin to appear.
Many people who become used to taking opioids (legitimately or illegitimately) go from taking the drugs for relief or pleasure only to find out their reliance on the drugs is more than their willpower to quit or to overcome the consequences on their own. Science and research has enabled us to delineate the connections between the cascading effects and areas of the brain targeted by drugs, but, despite similarities of certain drug types, the generated complexities and variable results are unique to the individual.
What the individuals are often surprised with is that; over time, tolerance and pain symptoms will tend to increase as they adapt to the opioids while their ability to abstain from use declines. Abnormal elevations of dopamine lead to the euphoria and relaxation, but, what goes up must come down and without future artificial increases through repeat opioid use, withdrawals ensue. Dependency to opioids is this condition that inevitably occurs with steady use of opioids, characteristically represented by withdrawals upon ceasing use.
Addiction takes on the added behavioral context that involves compulsive drug seeking and associated behaviors. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “By emphasizing the behavioral aspects of compulsive substance use, addiction captures the chronic, relapsing, and compulsive nature of substance use that occurs despite the associated negative consequences.”
It’s not a matter of if the opioids will leave their mark on the individual’s life, but, when, and how powerful will their healthier thoughts, emotions, or behaviors be able to compete with the pull of the compulsions to use the drugs, even in the face of the most desperate consequences.
Pain, memory, rewards, stress, emotions, habits, and decision-making are all affected by drug use causing or exacerbating a wide range of health and social problems. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “Combined biological, epidemiological, and social science discoveries of the last 3 decades have given us a detailed understanding of the risks, mechanisms, and consequences of drug abuse and addiction.”
For those in a chronic and continuous pain management situation, there are alternatives available in a large majority of cases which happens to be a big priority in the new legislations for health care management. Gradual reductions or the use of medications such as methadone or buprenorphine can help to detox, but, in the long run, treating the abuse and dependency conditions is best handled when all aspects of the physical, psychological, and social needs are addressed in a unique manner by qualified professionals.