Fighting Painkiller Addiction
Why does someone with hepatitis C need painkillers?
The hepatitis C virus often impacts the liver. The amount of liver damage is not necessarily correlated with the length of time someone has had hepatitis C. However, liver damage can lead to pain. This is because the liver may be struggling to function due to the damage, as well as other organs needing to work harder to make up for what the liver is unable to do. Some of the symptoms of a malfunctioning liver can include digestive issues, which can sometimes cause horrible pain. In some cases, doctors may prescribe painkillers to help the patient to feel relief for the pain that may come with the generalized digesting of food throughout an average day.
How does someone become addicted to painkillers?
An addiction to painkillers often begins innocently enough. Although television shows and movies often portray someone struggling with addiction as being crazy-eyed or acting like a lunatic, the reality is that most people who struggle with addiction look and act just like everybody else. They are simply people who are also battling addiction, and they may or may not know it.
When a person is prescribed painkillers, it is because they are experiencing a level of pain that is too strong for over the counter medication. The painkiller medication is provided in order to allow the body’s pain receptors to be quieted so that the body can focus on healing from the injury or illness that is causing pain. The intention is that the pain killers will be provided for only exactly as long as the body is in too much pain to function properly, but not for one more moment.
Unfortunately, it is impossible for doctors to know exactly how long this healing process will take, and it is very difficult for a doctor to know whether someone complaining of pain is being truthful. This sometimes means that a person can be prescribed more painkillers than they actually need for their healing process.
In addition, the body begins to build a tolerance to anything it experiences for a significant period of time. These can add up to a combination situation in which a person requires a higher dosage of painkillers to feel pain relief, and they may have access to those drugs within their own prescription.
Sometimes, the benefits of painkillers (such as a feeling of floating, a calming of anxiety, or an easier night’s sleep) can become enticing to a person. Other times, a person’s brain chemistry happens to be wired to become more susceptible than most to forming habits. In either case, such a person can begin to feel a desire to continue to take these painkillers even after the original need for them has ended.
In addition to an emotional desire, there is likely a physical need. This is what is called dependence. This is why the body begins to react when the person tries to stop taking the drug. This is what is commonly known as withdrawal. Often, the symptoms include shaking, sweating, vomiting, and other unpleasant experiences, which can easily lead the person to seek out painkillers in order to stop the symptoms. This cycle can continue indefinitely, with the person’s body needing a progressively higher dose to stave off withdrawal symptoms.
How do I know if I am addicted?
A professional can help you to understand if you are experiencing symptoms of addiction. They use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association. According to it, the criteria for drug dependence that causes significant problems must include three of the following:
- Tolerance – the substance has less effect on the patient because their body has developed tolerance. They need more and more of it to get the same pleasure.
- There are physical/psychological withdrawal symptoms, or the patient takes the substance to avoid experiencing withdrawal, or the patient takes a similar substance to avoid experiencing withdrawal.
- The patient frequently takes higher-than-intended doses of the substance.
- The patient often tries to quit or cut down.
- More and more time is spent getting hold of the substance, using it, or recovering from its effects.
- The patient’s drug use causes him/her to give up social, occupational or recreational activities.
- Even though patients know it causes psychological/physical problems, they continue taking it.
(For more information on this, refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders manual or speak with a licensed mental health professional)
What do I do if I am struggling with addiction?
This can be tricky to answer, since it often depends on your personal situation. For some people, their health insurance covers some or all of the costs related to in-patient or out-patient rehabilitation treatment. For other people, there are facilities available based on incomes, so those with higher income levels may be able to afford to pay for their own treatment.
It can also depend on where you live. In some cities, local facilities are available to any resident in need. In others, local emergency rooms are able to help with finding an open bed in an in-patient facility.
If you are questioning your painkiller usage, whether you may be addicted, or if you are certain you are addicted, contact your local hospital for information regarding who to speak with to seek treatment based on your insurance coverage and financial situation.1-3
- Diagnostic And Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 2013. Print.
- "HCV Faqs For Health Professionals | Division Of Viral Hepatitis | CDC". Cdc.gov. N.p., 2016. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.
- Vestal, Christine. "Getting Painkillers Seems Easy. Getting Help To Fight Painkiller Addiction Is Hard.". Washington Post. N.p., 2016. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.