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Chronic pain and the path to addiction and arrest

As someone who has lived with chronic pain, you know the truth that the only way to get relief may be to take pain medications. Unfortunately, pain medications have side effects including addiction and dependency.

As someone who takes opioids for pain, you worry that you'll become addicted and then have your prescription limited. This happens to people all the time, and it's a driving force behind the current opioid crisis in the United States.

Why are opiates used to treat chronic pain?

In patients with chronic pain, many over-the-counter drugs don't do enough to limit their pain. When they're in pain, they can't work or participate in activities, so patients may become anxious or depressed. Doctors recognized this and began to prescribe opiates for pain because of their higher potency. They knew the risks, but they also weighed those risks against the patient's right to a comfortable life.

This is a catch-22, though. The same drugs that provide relief also cause harm to many. These painkillers work effectively in the short term, but over time, the patient becomes tolerant to the medication. He or she has to take more to get the same effect, and an addiction and dependency is born.

What happens when patients develop tolerances?

Sometimes, medical providers decide to cut the patient off from the medications. That is a problem, because limiting the medication results in the patient's pain returning. The patient also experiences some withdrawal symptoms. In cases where a patient can't find relief, it may end up that the individual seeks relief through illegal narcotic sales, turning to drugs like Vicodin, heroin or other opiates available on the black market.

People don't start out addicted to drugs, and becoming addicted isn't necessarily their fault. It's important that those struggling with pain and addiction get the help they need in a medical setting, not in a prison.

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