Treating chronic pain and post-surgery recovery without “getting high”.
People with substance or alcohol abuse issues have pain reliving options that don’t include opioids (narcotics). What is an opioid? This is a medication that causes your thinking to change, as well as make your physical pain better. In other words, a narcotic drug will make your pain go away, but it will also product a mental “high”. If you are an addict or an alcoholic, taking a narcotic can set off an unanticipated craving, that can cripple your sobriety. A problem that I commonly observe is the alcoholic or addict that does not care for the narcotic kind of high. This person only drank alcohol or only used cocaine, therefore if a doctor prescribes Vicodin, it is not going to be a problem. This is a trap. Opioids are physically addictive to anyone who takes them. You don’t have to have a certain body chemistry or mental obsession to become dependent. It might be true that when you were using speed, “downers” were not attractive, but you will be surprised how that can change once you are clean. Mood altering substances that held little value, most likely, will become more attractive.
So, how do you deal with pain and maintain your sobriety? There are three types non-opioid drugs that can be effective and in treating pain. .
Anti-epileptic drugs are used (like you would think) to treat people with epilepsy. However, they have nerve-calming qualities that can help relive burning, stabbing and shooting pain (caused by nerve damage). Things that cause nerve damage include: diabetes, shingles, chemotherapy, a herniated disk and fibromyolgia.
Antidepressants are another way to treat pain, even if depression isn’t present. Antidepressants change the levels of certain brain chemicals that improve mood. It’s is not completely understood how this works, but they do help regulate pain signals. Antidepressants work best for pain caused by arthritis, nerve damage, migraines, tension headaches, low back pain, fibromyalgia and pelvic pain.
Anti-arrthythmic medication is traditionally used to treat serious irregular heartbeat. It works by blocking certain electrical signals in the heart that can cause an irregular heartbeat. Doctors have found that this drug can have an important effect on pain processing. It can be used to provide pain relief, usually for nerve pain and headaches.
A non-drug option is to seek mental treatment. A psychologist can help with physical pain, since the pain is a “whole body” condition. It affects people emotionally, socially and intellectually. Pain can also cripple your self-esteem. Therapies that can help in this area are counseling, hypnosis, biofeedback and relaxation techniques.
What about treating pain after surgery? There are several tactics that can be followed to prevent relapse.
The most important thing, is that you tell your doctor about your alcohol or addiction problem. Next, ask for a prescription without a refill. This way you will need to call the doctor when you run out of medication. If it makes sense, give the medication to someone else in your household. The reason is simple. When you take just one mind-altering pain pill, your thinking is not clear. You might not make the best choice and reason that you would like another pill. Now you are heading for trouble. The medication should not get you “high” it should only relive some of your pain.
Use your common sense! Talk to your doctor, family members and your sponsor regarding your pain. The bottom line is that you can live a sober and happy life, by making it your first priority.
3 thoughts on “Drug Addicts and Alcoholics Have Choices to Deal with Chronic Pain.”
Lots of positive information here…well done!
Very helpful information. I will share this information with friends in recovery.
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Great subject and important for those of us seeking to stay sober but confronting pain. My experience is as follows: (1) for surgical proceedures requiring pain medication administered while in the care of a facility, I have them give me what they think is appropriate, though I do tell them that I’m an alcoholic and addict, and that my tolerance may be high even though it’s been many years since my last drug, (2) when they suggest a take-home prescription I reiterate that I’m an alcoholic/addict. If they explain that the pain will possibly be much greater than acetametophin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can handle, then I ask for a non-refillable prescription with minimum number of tablets and have someone else – a non-addict – hold them (wife, friend, etc) and give them to me as they feel necessary, and (3) I stay honest with myself about my pain. If I’m not in excruciating pain, I use over the counter medication and breathing techniques to handle it. As an addict that loves to get high, I don’t have the luxury of taking prescription drugs unless the pain is so bad I’m either crying or yelling out for help.
One more thing: I flush down all unused prescribed meds, once the pain ceases to be excruciating.
I’ve been sober since January 15th, 1982 and I don’t have any illusions about how powerful my disease is. It gets stronger every year I’m sober, missing me and trying ever-new ways to get me to embrace drugs and alcohol again. The only way I can stay sober and keep loving my life is to work my program very diligently and be constantly on guard to make sure I’m not in the position to go back to them. ILML!
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