The Balancing Act: Treating Pain, Avoiding Addiction

pillsFiguring out how to treat chronic pain in a patient without sentencing them to a life of painkiller addiction is an ongoing puzzle that the medical establishment, law enforcement, the government, and concerned families are all working together to solve. Every patient is different, which means that it’s almost impossible to standardize care in a way that acknowledges the wide range of maladies that result in pain, the number of medications approved for pain management, and the environmental, mental or biological issues that may contribute to the development of addiction.

A hearing took place in February 2013 that sought to address the issue of painkiller addiction and discuss options in managing the rising tide of prescription drug dependence that has swept the nation in the last decade and shows no signs of lessening. Specifically, the goal was to learn more about how doctors measure pain and determine how to treat it as well as discuss ways to limit the number of prescriptions handed out in this country.

Different Issues on Both Sides

It’s a discussion that can very quickly become heated. Advocates for both sides have strong arguments, and it’s easy to see both sides. Those who are living with chronic pain have a right to avoid that pain if possible. On the other hand, living with a debilitating addiction and dying of an overdose is certainly an issue that must be addressed – especially since the evidence shows that the number of people losing their lives to prescription drug overdose is rising.

Douglas Throckmorton is the deputy director at the FDA office that oversees drug reviews. Referencing a recent argument over whether or not a single-ingredient hydrocodone pill should be approved for use in pain treatment, he said: “It is as complex an issue as I’ve seen in my 16 years at FDA. They are the most commonly prescribed prescription drugs and they’re killing people.”

Part of the problem is stigma. Patients who benefit from the pain relief provided by narcotics are adamant that they are not addicts. And while it is true that someone who needs painkillers in order to be able to function and perform daily tasks is different from the person who uses those drugs recreationally, it is also true that those same pills can one day cause them to be unable to function at all. More could be done to point out that the judgment is not on the patient who needs pain management but on the methods currently available to help them treat that pain.

As we wait for new pain management options, certain measures have been put into place to help stop prescription drug abuse including:

  • Statewide prescription drug databases
  • New tamper-resistant pills
  • Increased education for doctors and patients about the dangers of drug addiction

If someone you love is struggling with prescription drug addiction and would like to find a better way, here at Axis, we can help. Contact us today about the rehabilitation options available to your family member now.