From 2015-2018 10.7% (roughly 36 million) of U.S. adults used one or more prescription pain medications in the past 30 days. Use increased with age, from 5.4% among adults aged 20-39 to 12.7% for those aged 40-59 to 15.1% for those aged 60 and over. Ask yourself, when do the health risks of opioid medications cancel out the benefits?
In the short term, opioids can be effective painkillers. They offer patients fast relief from severe or distressing pain. In hospital settings, opioids such as morphine, fentanyl, and codeine are used routinely to manage pain associated with accidents, surgery, illness, or childbirth.
Experts agree, however, that long-term opioid prescribing for chronic, non-cancer pain is not beneficial for most people. Over time, opioids become less effective at reducing pain, as the brain adapts, and drug tolerance sets in.
If you’ve been taking opioid painkillers for months or years for back pain, its essential to review your usage regularly with your doctor and/or an addiction expert. It isn’t’ always obvious that opioid addiction has set in, particularly if you also have symptoms from a chronic pain condition.
If you feel mentally or physically unwell or your pain becomes unmanageable again, please don’t assume the answer is more opioids – they may, in fact, be the cause of your worst symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of opioid dependence:
- Recurring or obsessive thoughts about opioids
Opioid addiction usually involves a mental preoccupation with getting and taking more drugs. The way people experience this is unique, however. For example:
- Do you clock watch until you can take your next dose of opioids?
- Is it often hard to concentrate at work or school?
- Does the thought of running out of painkillers make you feel agitated or upset?
- Do you resent activities that get in the way of using painkillers – such as social events, driving or playing with your kids?
- Is it hard to imagine a life without opioids?
- Taking more opioids than your doctor has prescribed
Changing your dose of opioids without consulting your doctor is a sign of dependence. This includes taking more of an existing prescription drug purchasing opioids online or from a dealer, stockpiling medication, and taking over-the-counter codeine with another prescribed painkiller.
Of course, you can still get addicted to opioids if you stick to the prescribed dose- but it’s much more likely that you’ll get timely support if you discuss changes with your prescriber.
- Yor pain is getting worse
Due to changes in the brain, typically the same dose of an opioid drug will become less effective at blocking pain signals over time. If your back pain has returned or it is getting worse this can be a sign of opioid tolerance.
Its easy to mistake the return of your pain for an escalation in your original condition. Always seek an assessment for dependence, particularly if you’ve been taking more opioids to get the same effect.
- Cycles of opioid withdrawal
How do you feel as opioids wear off? What physical or psychological symptoms do you have? If you miss a does how do you feel?
Though it can be hard to track and measure symptoms objectively. Its useful to build awareness of any negative side effects connected with your opioid use
It is essential to seek medical help to detox safely from opioids if you have become dependent.
- Hiding your opioid use
If you’re covering up your use of opioids, whether that’s from family, friends, or co-workers, then it could be a sign of dependence
This includes playing down the number of opioids you use, visiting different pharmacies to buy over the count codeine hiding drugs at home, or taking opioids in secret
- Using opioid painkillers continuously for month or years
Opioids are physically and psychologically addictive. With continuous use over months or years, you will probably experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly without help
Often this keeps people locked into addictive cycles of using more opioids to relieve physical or psychological discomfort, if you’re also dealing with a chronic pain condition, the addiction can also exacerbate your symptoms
- Withdrawal from the things you enjoy
Have you lost interest in your work or studies? Do leisure activities that you once enjoyed feel exhausted? Is it hard to sit through a family meal or enjoy a conversation with friends? if you’re a regular opioid user, then shifts in your usual behavior patterns may indicate an addiction – particularly if you feel less choice and control about what’s happening in your life
The benefits of a non-drug approach
If you get addicted to opioids, what is the best way to treat your addiction? And how can you manage a chronic pain condition going forward?
If you have a chronic pain condition the thought of life without opioids may be very frightening. Understandably, you might be concerned about your pian becoming too much again. It’s vital to develop a range of support and skills to address your condition.
Talking therapies peer support grounds treatments such as mental resilience techniques like mindfulness and meditation, graded exercise programs (overseen by a professional fitness instructor) physiotherapy and non-addictive painkillers can all be useful alternatives to opioids.