Is My Chronic Pain Really Pain or am I Addicted?

Pain is Subjective

A bad car accident, a slip and fall, a pulled muscle, surgery… the list is endless as to why we must take pain medication. As varied are the reasons, so are the different medications available, depending on the type of injury from over-the-counter pain relievers like plain old aspirin to Schedule 2 (Class 2) drugs like Morphine and Oxycodone. According to the US Department of Justice, Office of Diversion Control, Class 2 drugs “have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.” 1 This is the US Government telling us that these drugs are highly addictive!

Stock image- pillsOne of the first preventative measures begins with telling our doctor that we are in recovery. Although many, if not most doctors are aware of the precautions in prescribing pain medication, they may not be aware of your history of alcohol or drug abuse. This is why it’s imperative to be honest with our health-care providers, so as not to invite disaster.

How bad is it?

Pain is subjective. How can a doctor or anyone else for that matter, decide how much pain someone else might be experiencing? It truly is up to the individual or the patient to decide for themselves on that famous scale of 1 to 10, 1 being minor, 10, excruciating. Once again, our level of honesty must be a 10! It is up to us to decide for ourselves how much pain we can sincerely endure. We must ask ourselves, “Is it really that bad? Will 800mg of Advil suffice? Or do I really have to take this prescribed narcotic?” According to the Narcotics Anonymous Booklet, In Times of Illness, “It’s helpful to remember the importance of making a conscious decision not to medicate ourselves or treat our own illnesses.”

The Disease is Cunning, Powerful and Deadly

Now for most addicts and alcoholics, our sensitivity to any medication may be acute. The AA Big Book tells us that alcoholism “…may be the manifestation of an allergy…” This really explains a lot, especially our propensity for abuse. We are sensitive in other ways, too: Mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. This susceptibility makes us even more vulnerable to drugs and alcohol, in any form. The disease is cunning, powerful and deadly, and works overtime to convince us we’re “fine.” Clouded by this belief, lies the potential for misuse and or abuse of prescribed medications.

1 “DEA Diversion Control – Controlled Substance Schedules.” DEA Diversion Control – Controlled Substance Schedules. Department of Justice, DEA – Office of Diversion Control, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. .

Why am I taking this?

Our sensitivity also affects us in other ways; we may exaggerate the pain we’re experiencing. We may do this for attention or as an excuse to take a “little extra” or to take the edge off. Addicts and alcoholics are notorious for manipulating the truth. A person who has yet to be diagnosed with the disease of addiction or alcoholism will be at greater risk to the horrors of becoming addicted to pain meds.

We are lulled into the belief that since the medication is prescribed it must be safe, or at least ok for us to take. WRONG! If we are already in recovery, we know that once we substitute one for another, we release our addiction all over again. Who cares if it’s not our “drug of choice?” What difference does it make if it says, “Take as prescribed?” Our bodies don’t know the difference between a street drug and a “legal” drug that came from a pharmacy. Our disease wants us dead and will find any means to do so, even one pill at a time.

List of Safeguards

Often times we may become addicted without even realizing we’ve done so before it’s too late. Here is a list of safeguards to protect you from the dangers of painkiller addiction:

  1. Tell your Doctor that you’re an addict/alcoholic and in recovery.
  2. Ask your Doctor about non-narcotic drugs, or natural/homeopathic treatments that may suffice.
  3. Talk to someone about your situation and how you’ve been feeling.
  4. Be honest with your doctor about ALL medication you take and if do drink, how much.
  5. Ask your Doctor if the medication can be cut in half by your or your pharmacist.
  6. Ask yourself, “How much pain am I really in? Do I really have to take the whole dose or can I take half?
  7. Give your medication to a trusted family member to disburse.
  8. Lessen the dose, as necessary and don’t stop “cold turkey.” This could lead to painful/dangerous withdrawals.
  9. If you do find yourself taking pain medication not “as prescribed,” get help immediately! You may need to go to detox and or treatment, like 12 Keys Rehab.

The Addiction Blog