With September being Pain Awareness Month, now is a good time to discuss a problem that affects an estimated 100 million Americans – more than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.
Pain is associated with a wide range of injury and disease, and is sometimes the disease itself.
Some conditions may have pain and associated symptoms arising from a discrete cause, such as postoperative pain or pain associated with a malignancy, or may be conditions in which pain constitutes the primary problem, such as neuropathic pains or headaches.
In many cases, sufferers look to relieve their chronic pain by taking pain medication. Many depend on opioids – a group of narcotics that interferes with the transmission of pain messages to the brain from the part of the body that hurts (as opposed to healing or repairing the source of the pain).
The use of opioids can have tragic consequences due to the physical dependence that can occur. More Americans now die from drug overdoses than in car accidents. Studies show that two out of 10 people taking opioids will become addicted. Seeking opioids from multiple health care providers for pain-related symptoms is often a sign of addiction. Other symptoms may include withdrawal, difficulty carrying out daily activities without the drug, and the willingness to do anything to obtain opioids.
Considering that older people suffer most from arthritis, degeneration, and low back pain, it’s not surprising that they also account for an increasing percentage of those with opioid addiction. One study, for example, found that where 20 years ago only 7.8 percent of the total drug treatment population was comprised of individuals ages 50 – 59, that number is now 35.9 percent, while among those ages 60 – 69, the number jumped from 1.5 percent to 12 percent.
Opioids can be deadly. Understand the potential for drug abuse before you starting taking them. If you think you are becoming addicted to them, don’t wait. Seek help as soon as possible.
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