Opioids and Prescription Drugs

by Roger Whittler, LPC
September 24, 2019

The use of opioid pain management has come at a tragic cost.  In 2016, overdoses accounted for 63,600 deaths in the United States.  Approximately two-thirds of the deaths were attributed to opioids. As the medical industry has faced the challenge of alleviating pain in their patients, prescription opioid pain medication has become stronger and more addictive. 
Sigmund Freud called it the Pleasure Principle.  He characterized it as a tendency for people to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  Opioids were embraced originally as a cardinal, underappreciated asset for the treatment of pain until this rise in addiction and overdose caused public outcry.  Policies that started as pill promotion have now become pill restriction.  As the availability of opioids decreases it is likely that sufferers of pain will again be treated by a multi-disciplinary program - as it was before the widespread availability of opioid pain medication.
Though it will become harder in the coming days to obtain opioid prescriptions, there will also be more illicit sources for obtaining opioid pain medications based on the current demand.  Some considerations when seeking prescription management of pain include:

  • Researching thoroughly any prescription pain medication that is prescribed to yourself or a loved one beyond reading cautions on labels and physician instructions.
  • Asking for non-opioid options.
  • Consulting with the prescribing physician to see if alternating use of the drug is possible rather than continuous use.
  • Accepting only the lowest dose that makes pain bearable rather than higher dosages.
  • Setting a date to stop taking the medication and stick to it.
  • If you have experienced addiction in the past, discuss this with your physician to determine if opioid prescription is advisable.
  • Researching thoroughly other pain management resources, such as physical therapy and over-the-counter options.
  • Obtaining naloxone and keep it near opioid pain medication – in the event of an overdose.
  • Never using pain medications of another person – from online sources, or non-licensed individuals or pharmacies.
The introduction of synthetic substances to the body to address pain creates a myriad of potential consequences beyond treating the pain.  Those who struggle with addiction face multiple obstacles to recovery that include:
  • Tolerating physical symptoms of withdrawal.
  • An emotional attachment to the drug that fears life without it.
  • The constant struggle to resist impulses to use the drug.
  • Trying to reclaim a sense of enjoyment absent the drug.
  • Removing oneself from people and places that compromise recovery.
  • Rebuilding relationships that are supportive and complement recovery.
The emotional attachment, or that tricky fear of ever making it without the drug, is an early warning that should be addressed with a physician or a mental health professional.  Seeking support is a critical step in reclaiming lives. 
We all hope the need for pain medication never occurs, however with the highly addictive nature of opioid pain medications, if needed, should be approached with caution.
Need support? Schedule a session to discuss prescription drugs and recovery options by calling the Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program at 1-800-688-7859. 

Kertesz’, Stefan G., Gordon, Adam J., 2018, A crisis of opioids and the limits of prescription control: United States, Society for the Study of Addiction, doi: 10.1111/add.14394.