Painkiller addiction requires a psychological cure

Is heroin still heroin when it’s prescribed?  

Alleviating pain was the original intent behind the design, creation and prescribing of pain medications. A well-used type of pain killer is the powerful class of narcotics called opioids. Oxycodone is essentially pure version of heroin develop in 1916. Of course its purity adds to its’ addictive quality. The number of prescriptions for opioids has gone from 74 milligrams in 1997 to 369 milligrams in 2007.

Where are all these drugs going? These drugs are going to mothers, fathers, their children and even our elders; to the homeless and the owner of the penthouse on the corner. It’s easy to get these drugs and doing so is even validated by the fact that many people are getting them from physicians.

The Food and Drug Administration is taking one small step towards helping end opiate addiction.

The latest efforts by the FDA and supported by the Whitehouse are an attempt to stop the flow of the drug. They are recommending a four part approach:

1)      Increase education to parents and children about prescription drug abuse.

2)      Monitor “doctor shoppers” those individuals who have managed to get multiple prescriptions

3)      Encourage safe disposal of the drugs

4)      Shut down pill mills

This is all well and will most likely do some good and hopefully not too much harm. There are still so many people who are suffering every day from chronic pain. They use pain killers under the supervision of physicians who are not part of pill mills and prescribe with awareness.

But this isn’t where the abuse is happening.

The use of pain killers to end the pain that comes from a broken heart, mind and spirit is growing even more visible. A research study conducted at a detox program at the University of Buffalo found that 31 out of 75 who were there for detox, had received their first dose from a prescription. The reasons why kept using were “helped to take away my emotional pain and stress”, “to feel normal” and “to feel like a normal person.” In order to feel normal, they will often take a dosage that is higher than what is normally prescribed or use it in a way it is not normally used, like crushing and snorting or injections. All of this in order to get a high, to psychically move away from whatever they want.

The addiction is not just to the drug but the physical, psychological and some would argue spiritual state that using can bring. It’s no longer pain management when the treatment goes beyond the need. Pill mills are clinics that are just in the business of prescribing pills rather than providing any type of pain treatment. This pill mills or retail pharmacies have shown a 45% increase in the amount of prescriptions they administer from 2007-2009.

Ending abuse of prescriptions drugs is going to take more than what the Obama administration, the FDA and physicians are trying to do. As with all addictions that cripple us, there must be a multiple point approach to ending the abuse. The priority should be with the individual and their pain that has become an addiction.

The existential perspective on addiction is that is a way to relieve suffering, suffering from the existential challenges such as meaninglessness, isolation, responsibility, death, and freedom.

Prescription meds allow it to be far easier and perhaps even acceptable for someone to self-medicate for internal pain. The drugs can alleviate the pain but only for a moment, then the pain comes back even stronger than before.

The increased attention and regulation on prescription narcotics may help to alleviate the social pain and cost of addiction, but it will only make a small impact on the physical, mental and spiritual cost to those that are addicted. The work of helping people create positive ways to engage with and lessen their suffering – to find meaning, to connect with others and community, to take responsibility for their lived experiences, to not fear death and to celebrate their freedom, is be the best way to end this addiction.

-- Makenna Berry 

Posted at 04:32 AM in

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