While many people with chronic pain conditions desire to avoid pain medications, for some, it is imperative. If you are recovering from addiction, the prospect of being prescribed pain medication can be particularly terrifying. The following advice is meant to help addicts find effective treatment alternatives as well as communicate their need to avoid drugs to doctors and loved ones.
Pain Killers and Drug Addiction
A drug addict is someone whose brain has been altered by a substance to experience compulsion and craving toward addictive substances. A recovering addict is someone who has worked to stop drug use but still has altered brain chemistry caused by former use. Different drugs work on the brain in different ways, but all addictive drugs alter brain chemistry in a way that causes compulsion. Sometimes the effect is physical dependency, sometimes emotional, but it is always a real change in the brain that tells the addict he or she must have the drug. For an addict, stopping drug use is about far more than self-control. It is departing with something that has become, seemingly, a necessary part of life. It is a commitment to a very long and difficult road, including an extremely unpleasant initial withdrawal period.
An excellent resource for those who wish to understand addiction in its complexity can be found at www.addictionrecoveryguide.org.
Painkillers prescribed for chronic pain are usually either opioids or antidepressants. Antidepressants by and large increase the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, chemical messengers that play an important role in our ability to feel well-being. Prolonged use of such substances can limit or eliminate the brain’s ability to produce the neurotransmitters on its own, causing dependence. Opioids attach to opioid receptors in the gastrointestinal tract and central nervous system, increasing pain tolerance and deadening pain. They also increase the amount of dopamine released by the brain, creating a feeling of pleasure. People can become unable to tolerate pain or feel pleasure normally without opioids.
There is good reason for anyone to be wary of taking addictive medications, but for addicts, it is essential to find alternatives. The addict’s brain may never fully recover from the alterations made during their time of use; if it does, it will take time. Re-introducing a substance that fills a role that the brain no longer does correctly on its own welcomes an addict to abuse that substance.
Fortunately recovering addicts don’t have to choose between becoming addicted or living life in pain. There are a number of drug-free pain treatment options for those with back pain and other conditions.
Any pain treatment plan should involve more than just masking the pain; proactive therapies that address the cause of pain, like chiropractic and exercise therapy, should be pursued. Yet it is important to reduce your level of pain so that you’re able to pursue these other treatments and get through your daily activities. The following pain management methods have proven effective.
This form of Ancient Chinese Medicine involves the specified placement of needles in the skin to unblock energy pathways. Western society generally translates that into stimulating nerves and blood flow, releasing endorphins (the body’s natural opioids) and interfering with pain signals.
This is similar to acupuncture and makes use of the same points on the body, but uses applied pressure from fingers or instruments instead of needles.
There are many types of massage, but they all involve the release of endorphins, increase in blood circulation and relaxation of tense muscles. Massage is associated with a feeling of well-being and comfort.
There are a number of treatment methods that can numb an area or otherwise interfere with the sensation of pain. This can come in the form of injections. It may also come as an implant or patch that sends electrical signals to the nerves that normally send pain signals to the brain, altering the sensation. Nerve blocks and stimulators are best for people with severe, debilitating pain who are not helped by other methods.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:
This form of treatment involves altering the way you experience pain on a psychological level first, which then translates to your physical perception of pain. Emotional and physical pain are processed by the same areas of the brain, meaning that a change in one can cause a change in the other. This approach may especially benefit recovering addicts.
Conditions like chronic back pain can greatly interfere with your life and merit treatment. There are effective ways to treat your pain while keeping your sobriety intact. Be proud of your commitment to avoid drugs.