Mayo Health Care
Narcotic Pain Relief: Addiction Risk and Medication
The spate of news about the apparent epidemic of prescription drug addiction may give the impression that these drugs are so irresistibly powerful that, sooner or later, we will all end up either getting hooked, or getting paranoid from inflated fear of addiction. While narcotic pain relief is tagged to be the proverbial poison that is marketed to unsuspecting senior citizens, both doctors and patients suffering from chronic pain are left in the middle of a dilemma: the need for pain relief drugs to alleviate suffering from severe and debilitating pain, and the exaggerated fear of addiction risks that come with powerful painkillers. Narcotic pain relief is used to ease pain caused by chronic illness, surgery, accident or injury. They act upon specific receptors in the brain and spinal cord to ease pain and reduce your emotional response to pain. Prescription drug addiction, specifically narcotic painkillers, can really be devastating and may lead to destroying lives. Many experts, however, believed that this inflated fears of addiction is depriving a lot of patients in desperate conditions from availing the painkillers they so badly needed.
Moreover, the risks of narcotic pain relief by far outweighs its benefits. Over the years, prescription drug addiction has been a growing problem. The three main classes of prescriptions drugs being abused are: • Opioid narcotics - used to treat pain or relieve coughs or diarrhea. Opioid narcotics attach to opioid receptors in the central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord), preventing the brain from receiving pain messages. • Depressants - used to treat anxiety, tension, panic attacks, and sleep disorders.
Depressants slow down brain activity by increasing the activity of a neurotransmitter called GABA. The result is a drowsy or calming effect. • Stimulants - used to treat conditions like narcolepsy, ADHD, depression, obesity, and asthma. Stimulants increase brain activity, resulting in greater alertness, attention, and energy. However, while there has been a growth in the number of people abusing narcotic pain reliefs, a much greater increase in the number of people who are using the drugs responsibly and benefiting from them. Experts believe that it's not just the drug that causes an addiction. It develops from a number of physiological, psychological, and social factors. Most people who have back pain are not at risk of prescription drug addiction for a number of reasons. In the first place, majority of people with back pain never get prescribed potentially addictive painkillers. While steroids can also be prescribed for pain due to swelling and inflammation, steroids are not narcotics either.
Nevertheless, these powerful drugs must be used with caution. Patients with acute pain may be treated with opioid narcotics for a very short time, often a few weeks or a month, that is why the risks of prescription drug addiction is far from being high. Even the most powerful drugs cannot be addictive when used that way. Narcotic pain relief is meant to relieve pain immediately and allow people to get out of bed, start physical therapy, and change the habits that caused their back pain in the first place. Without painkillers, the first step could just be too painful. However, in spite of a good treatment, some chronic back pain may not respond to the approach. Oftentimes, patients develop multiple problems with the spine brought about by arthritis or a history of heavy labor that cannot be corrected by surgery. When people don't respond to one or two surgeries, they are more likely to develop chronic pain that are too difficult to treat. This small population of people who have chronic pain and hard-to-treat problems are usually given long-term opioid narcotics, and these are the ones who are prone to prescription drug addiction.
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