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The Anatomy of Pain and Addiction to Prescription Painkillers

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The Anatomy of Pain and Addiction to Prescription Painkillers

the-anatomy-of-pain-and-addiction-to-prescription-pain-killersYou experience pain unrelated to a terminal medical condition and seek help from your primary care physician. Perhaps you suffered an injury or an illness that created neural sensitization or a heightened response from nerve endings. When there is neural sensitization, the brain and nerve cells increase a chemical known as nitric oxide. Once this chemical is released, it stimulates other chemical responses that can induce further sensitization. These increases in chemicals are not only toxic, they lower the body’s pain threshold and increase the occurrence of pain such as back pain and fibromyalgia. Chronic pain or chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP) impacts the peripheral nervous system, the nervous system that connects the central nervous system to limbs and organs, and the central nervous system, the nervous system that integrates information and activities from all parts of the body. When a physician prescribes a powerful medication, such as an opiate, to treat chronic pain, a patient is at risk of abuse or addiction. Addiction disrupts the proper functioning of the body’s multiple systems, including the two nervous systems. Furthermore, medications used for pain, alter brain function and the body’s natural responses to pain and other stimulants. Both chronic pain and substance use disorder (SUD) disrupt a patient’s sleep patterns, social functioning and more. Both conditions have a neurobiological factor that must be addressed. Sometimes, the body has a rebound response to both the pain and any medication prescribed for it. Even once the original cause of pain is gone, the body can still experience pain in anticipation of powerful narcotic or benzodiazepine medication. With time and continued painkiller use, pain may become more instant as the body craves more of the medication. This dynamic is known as developing a tolerance for the drug and is part of the cycle of addiction. Tolerance level continues to build over time, requiring an increase in the medication dosage. Both pain and addiction must be dealt with, perhaps by intervention, to break the cycle of addiction and the cycle of pain. There are non-narcotic, non-habit forming medications that can address pain if it persists. Prescription drug detox should always be done in medically monitored detox program followed by a substance abuse treatment program. There are a range of genetic, environmental and psychosocial aspects related to a person’s vulnerability to addiction. All of these issues can be safely addressed in an integrated, comprehensive dual diagnosis program. Oftentimes, after drug addiction has stopped and an addict has successfully detoxed from pain medication, original chronic pain will disappear or diminish to a manageable degree. Dual diagnosis treatment works, pain can be managed and life can be renewed without drugs or alcohol.

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