It’s ‘Time to Stop’ and talk about pain medication addiction
It’s estimated that 7.1 million adults in England take prescribed opioids or gabapentinoid pain medication.
Medications such as codeine, morphine and tramadol are often prescribed as a ‘quick fix’ after an injury or operation. However, these can lead to addiction and even death if they are misused or taken for a prolonged period of time.
Click here for Doncaster CCG’s position of Opioid prescribing.
Watch David’s story below about coming off painkillers:
Short term vs Long term pain
Acute or short-term pain is usually in response to injury, trauma or damage to the body such as nerve damage, broken limbs etc. In acute pain the use of pain medication can be very effective.
However after 3-6 months the original damage to the body has usually healed or settled as much as it is going to (unless it is due to an inflammatory condition). The pain that is felt is then due to the body becoming oversensitive and giving off pain signals in an uncontrolled way. In this case it is called long-term or persistent pain.
No-one knows why this happens in some people, but it is a common condition that affects more than 1 in 5 of us (British Pain Society). This kind of pain needs managing in a different way to acute pain.
Many people don’t realise they are becoming addicted to pain medication, or if they do, they can struggle to see a way out.
Signs to look out for:
- You’ve been taking the medication for over three months.
- You are regularly taking the maximum dose or more than the prescribed dose.
- You don’t feel like yourself.
- You experience unpleasant side effects or withdrawal symptoms when you miss or reduce your dose. These could include anxiety, nausea, headaches, hallucinations or difficulty concentrating.
- You’re getting medication from other sources.
- You watch the clock, waiting until you can take your next dose – the thought of missing one causes anxiety.
- You might be buying it illegally or taking medication that has been prescribed to others.
- You visit different doctors or pharmacists to try and get extra medication.
- You get angry or upset when someone mentions how much medication you’re taking or how often you’re taking it.
Often, people are not aware that there are other ways to help manage persistent pain other than medication.
The main aim of treatment of persistent pain is to control and manage it so that you can have an improved quality of life.
It may not be possible to completely remove your pain, however you can be supported to cope better with it. Things such as anxiety and stress can make your ability to manage your pain worse, and things such as healthy diet, good sleep, gentle exercise and mindfulness can help calm down your body’s sensitivity to pain and make you better able to manage your pain.
This five minute external video gives a good explanation of this:
Reducing the side effects from your pain medication can help you feel more alert and proactive about managing your pain, and may improve your quality of life.
Please speak to your GP practice for support, especially if you are thinking about reducing your pain medication as it can be dangerous to reduce this too quickly on your own.