Addiction to Painkillers


People who report long-term pain are often either treated with skepticism, or simply prescribed painkillers and told to go away. There’s abuse on both sides of the fence. As a nation, we take more painkillers than any other country. This produces several million people who are dependent on the drugs. In a way, this is an inevitable outcome of the current situation in the medical profession. So many doctors are now tied into networks, each with their own performance targets. They are not allocated enough time to hold a meaningful conversation with their patients. Their real function is to refer for more tests or write prescriptions. Either way, this produces a billable outcome and earns their profit. So, early on, doctors are wrong to be skeptical of their patients. But after the patients have become dependent, skepticism isn’t relevant. The only thing that brings peace to both sides is another prescription.

The problem of the prescription is, however, not easily resolved. We start with the underlying medical cause for the pain. This may well involve one or more drugs to control. But if the patient grows anxious or, worse, depressed, this adds new drugs to the cocktail and the risks of interactions grows higher. Many patients have been struggling with different addictions for years. In the best cases, this is mere alcoholism, but the National Institutes of Health estimates, at some time during their lives, about 10% of the adult population abuses opiates. This may be as prescription drugs or bought on the streets. The result can be a level of chemical dependency that’s very difficult to treat.

This is not a set of problems to be solved in an easy way. It begins with a detailed physical and psychological evaluation of both the patient and the family members prepared to offer help and support. Only with a complete profile of the individual can doctors devise a comprehensive treatment regime to address both the addiction and the continuing problem of pain. To be blunt, there’s no point in treating the addiction unless you also do something about the pain. So long as the patient suffers, he or she will always be tempted straight back on to the painkillers. For there to be any chance of long-term success, there has to be hope and commitment. Behavioral therapists are vital in teaching addicts how to deal with the withdrawal symptoms. A team provides a full range of different treatments to ease the pain and distract the mind. This can involve physical therapy, massage, individual and group counseling, and so on.

In all this, Tramadol is actually particularly important because it’s not an opiate. The aim is always to produce a complete withdrawal of all medication. But, from time to time, it may be necessary to offer short-term relief. In part, this may be because the body is having to adjust to an increased level of activity. Doctors and therapists program a regime designed to improve mobility. As a patient recovers muscle tone and rebuilds stamina, there can be new aches and pains. Tramadol is useful in very short bursts. With the right support, the majority of the younger patients do manage to recover. It can be more difficult for older patients to maintain motivation.


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