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How do I Treat Pain Killer Addiction?

Article Details
  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Pain killer addiction has become one of the most prevalent forms of substance abuse. Treatment is vital, as this type of addiction can become every bit as dangerous as dependence on an illegally obtained drug. The first crucial step in treatment is admitting the problem. Once the issue is acknowledged, formal treatment depends on each individual case; factors such as drug type and degree of addiction should be considered. Most treatments entail either counseling and therapy or pharmaceutical treatments, with many physicians opting for a combination of approaches.

Ironically, one way to combat a pain killer addiction is with additional medication. Certain narcotics like naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine can alter the brain chemistry that leads to dependence, or they may lessen withdrawal symptoms. Dependence on opiate-based pain killers commonly used for post-operative procedures, arthritis, and cancer treatments may respond best to such pharmaceutical treatments.

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Counseling therapies that involve communication and behavior modification are another way pain killer addiction can be treated. Dependence on stimulant painkillers like Ritalin® can usually be better treated with this option than with a pharmaceutical approach. Group counseling in which individuals can talk with others afflicted with the same problem can prove to be an invaluable aid, as can cognitive-behavioral therapies that focus on changing the individual’s negative thought processes and altering damaging behaviors. Counseling therapies typically explore underlying issues like life stresses that may sustain the addiction, and they may also implement behavior modification programs like reward and punishment or response prevention.

Detoxification — or quitting the pain killer "cold turkey" — is one option that many a rehab center or individual attempts. The motivation behind this process is to remove all harmful traces of the drug from the system and thus induce withdrawal. As arguably the most challenging component of addiction treatment, withdrawal from painkillers can have many of the same symptoms of other drug withdrawals, including pain, muscle spasms, sweating, chills, agitation, insomnia, and delirium. The extremity of these symptoms and the potential for dangerous effects like seizures may necessitate that detoxification take place within a supervised facility. Even then, further pharmaceutical or therapeutic treatments are usually required.

Pain killer addiction can happen to anyone, and its effects can be life-changing. If an individual continues to take pain killers even after an injury has healed, production of natural body pain killers called endorphins is halted and therefore pain may continue even after a recovery. Nerve cells and receptors in the brain are also damaged, continuing a damaging cycle of craving and dependence. Treatment may be long and complex, especially in combined approaches. While the outcome of pain killer addiction treatment can be rewarding, it is best not be undertaken alone; a certified medical professional can be an invaluable guide through the process.

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