Many people take opioid painkillers for chronic pain such as back pain, arthritis, or lingering pain from injuries. Fear of experiencing pain is one reason people are reluctant to quit taking opioids, even when it is clear they have become harmful. However, there now better ways to treat chronic pain. Many non-addictive medications have been found to be effective in treating chronic pain. These include some over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, as well as several kinds of prescription medications, including antidepressants. Physical therapy has also been proven to be an effective way to treat chronic pain. Exactly what your treatment looks like depends on your particular condition. What may be surprising is that these treatments are actually more effective than opioid painkillers. Here are some reasons opioids are not great for treating chronic pain.
Opioids are addictive
This is perhaps too obvious to mention, except that people often see addiction as a problem for later, whereas pain is a problem now. However, if you are experiencing chronic pain and an opioid only treats the symptoms, a treatment plan that relies on opioids is essentially a commitment to take them indefinitely, which almost guarantees you will develop a physical dependence. Daily use can cause physical dependence in only a few weeks, after which you may experience painful withdrawal symptoms if you quit abruptly. Whenever you begin to tolerate a certain dose, the pain will return and you will have to take more. Opioids are most effective when you take them for less than a week, following an injury or medical procedure. After that, you risk dependence and addiction. About 20 percent of people who use opioids to treat chronic pain will start misusing their medication.
Dangerous side effects
Most people are aware that you can die from an opioid overdose but they assume their prescribed doses are safe. This is generally true, but opioids still have side effects that include constipation, drowsiness, and nausea and vomiting. They may also cause respiratory suppression and sleep apnea, which can lead to other health problems. One reason opioids are so dangerous is that you build a tolerance for the pain-relieving effects before you build a tolerance for the suppressive effects. That means that if you keep increasing your dose in order to relieve pain, you will eventually get to the point where a pain-relieving dose will dangerously suppress your breathing and heart rate, leading to an overdose.
They can make pain worse
There is a condition called opioid induced hyperalgesia that paradoxically makes you more sensitive to pain. Your original pain may hurt more, or you may experience other pain. This is clearly bad in itself, but it may also cause you to increase your dosage more quickly.
If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.