Accidental Addiction: From Pain Relief to Drug Dependency

When someone gets surgery or has a serious accident, pain is the main thing people want to stop.  It is a natural human need to avoid physical pain, and if we can relieve pain we are happy to do it.  In fact, not controlling pain can slow recovery. Pain control is a critical part of medical treatment.  Why do some people, long after pain medication should be needed, continue to take opiates and drugs like Vicodin?

Some believe that certain people have a genetic predisposition to opiate drug addiction.  When they take opiates like Vicodin they feel good – and they want to continue to feel good.  However, tolerance soon develops, and to achieve that same feeling, the person has to take a higher and higher dosage.  Often, they can not ever achieve that initial high – so they chase it continuously by adding alcohol or other mood-altering drugs.

Some people who become addicted to their pain medication express shock and dismay – they never intended to become addicted and they are surprised they did indeed develop a dependency.  Many of these people believe the pain is the real problem – they must control the pain so they must take the drug.

In treating drug addiction to prescription pain pills like Vicodin it’s important to first help the person understand that in some cases, pain cannot be completely relieved. The goal is to find other methods of pain control – biofeedback, yoga, meditation, and natural remedies – but also to understand that you don’t have to be 100% pain-free to live life well.  Some degree of pain is present in most peoples’ lives – you bump your head, you twist an ankle, you throw your back out. Most people deal with the daily annoyance of a little bit of pain.  If you expect to be 100% free of pain, you are reaching for the impossible.

It’s also important to remember the backlash effect of many pain medications – they can actually make it harder for your body to naturally protect you against pain.  And life under the influence of high doses of pain meds is no way to live.

If you have become addicted to opiate pain killers like Vicodin, seek out an addiction specialist to help you develop a plan for recovery.  In most cases you will need a medically supervised detox and then either residential treatment or long-term outpatient treatment and therapy.

It is possible to live well free of pain medication.

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The Pain of Addiction

Vicodin addiction often starts innocently enough. Most people start taking Vicodin or other pain medications after surgery or an injury. But then they can’t stop. They need more to get the same pain relief. They start doctor shopping to get more pills. And the cycle continues until it takes over their lives.