When Painkillers Take Over

Help for Prescription Painkiller Dependence

By:  Dr. Helise Bichefsky

pillsPainkillers, commonly prescribed for acute, chronic or postoperative pain may lead to dependence and ultimately addiction—even when the drugs are taken as prescribed.  These drugs, as well as heroin, are known as opioids.  Opioids are powerful narcotic drugs that can be highly effective at treating pain; unfortunately they are also highly addictive.

Opioid dependence is more common than many people think.  Men and women of all ages, races, ethnic groups and educational levels can become dependent on opioids.  According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2008, approximately 2 million Americans were dependent on opioid prescription painkillers or heroin.

Addiction can be a challenging disease that often requires medication-assisted treatment along with counseling to aid in recovery.  Treatment approaches must be tailored to address each individual’s circumstances, but research shows that combining treatment medications (where available and appropriate) with behavioral therapy is the best way to ensure success for most patients.

Common medications used to treat opioid addiction include Methadone and Buprenorphine—most often prescribed as Suboxone Film, combining Buprenorphine and Naloxone (to deter medication abuse).  The more easily a medication fits into a patient’s daily life, the more the patient can focus on the treatment plan.  Although Suboxone is probably more popular than Methadone with new patients, neither drug is “better” than the other.  Some people find that Suboxone provides them with effective relief from withdrawal symptoms while minimally disrupting their lifestyle, while others find that they need more relief than Suboxone can provide. Some people find that traveling to a methadone clinic for a daily dose provides needed structure to the day and that the everyday interaction with counselors at a clinic also helps them maintain abstinence.  Others prefer having the ability to work with a certified Suboxone-prescribing physician on a weekly or a bi-weekly basis.  There simply is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Using medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence is much like using medication for other chronic illnesses such as asthma or heart disease.  It is meant to help the user stay clean and healthy so that they can remain successfully engaged in comprehensive treatment that includes counseling and other services to address medical and psychological needs.

Medicine can be an important component for managing both the short- and long-term effects of opioid dependence.  You and your doctor can discuss the timing and appropriateness of tapering off doses until the medication is no longer required. Doctors need a special license to prescribe Suboxone and will be limited to the number of active patients for which they may prescribe.

Prevention is the best defense against addiction.  If you get injured and require pain management, be sure to talk to your physician about the benefit of trying non-opioid alternative treatments.

For more information:
Call 610-436-1584 or visit www.AgelessHealthOnline.com

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