THE ELEMENTS OF PAIN, THE THREAT OF ADDICTION
Pain is the body’s way of alerting you that there is some underlying dysfunction, be it injury or illness, that needs to be corrected.There are different types of pain — chronic and acute — and a variety of ways to overcome its aches and tender spots, some courses that, like medicine, can become addictive.
The perception of pain varies among individuals and in severe cases it can have an exceedingly negative impact on quality of life. Proper management of pain will ensure faster recovery times and allow an individual to maintain a higher quality of life.There are several factors that can influence pain perception and slow recovery times.
Ethnic and cultural values can be a powerful dynamic. Depending on one’s beliefs, for example, high pain tolerance may be a sign of strength, while others may consider pain a punishment for wrongdoing.The perception that adults do not cry is prevalent, but it is an activity which, at its core, is a normal reaction to pain.
Anxiety and stress highly influence pain perception. A person might have fear of hospitals, fear of drug interactions or non-reactions, or fear that the problem could be worse than it actually is — all of which can lead to high anxiety levels that ramp up the nervous system and keep the perception of pain high. Fatigue slows the body’s ability to heal and can lead to depression, which pain by itself can cause. Depression, in its turn, can feed anxiety and stress.
A close consideration of all of the above factors is vital when it comes to pain management. Understanding what type of pain the individual has is also important in determining the course of treatment. Pain itself is the communication between the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and the central nervous system (CNS) that identifies injury or the potential for injury.
Pain can be categorized at three levels:
- Cutaneous (skin level);
- Deep somatic (bone, ligament, nerve or circulatory); or
- Visceral (organ level).
Acute pain is a sudden onset of pain that the body is able to control once the condition that caused the pain is resolved. Chronic pain, on the other hand, manifests when the body cannot adapt or heal in a normal timeframe.A general timeline in defining chronic pain is three to six months. Intractable pain is severe pain that does not relent and is usually associated with diseases such as cancer.
Drug Management: A Slippery Slope
Pain management starts with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the starting point for mild pain. They are often accompanied by the use of less potent opiate drugs (morphine or codeine) for mild to moderate pain. More severe pain is treated with stronger opiate drugs and often with higher dosing. Antidepressants and anticonvulsant drugs also are used in pain management, usually when there is nerve damage involved.
Addiction to prescription pain medication is becoming a larger problem because of the way these drugs react with an individual’s body.They can lead to physical or mental dependency. Drug tolerance, which is the ability to adapt to a drug, tends to drop the longer a medicine is used, potentially leading to higher dosages to achieve desired effects. Drug dependence occurs when drug tolerance goes up and the body needs the medicine to function. Addiction occurs when the drug is needed to satisfy physical, emotional or psychological needs. Addictive behaviors include lying, hiding pills, excessive emergency room visits and what is known as “doctor shopping” to get more prescriptions.
As addiction grows, criminal activity can become more common, according to recent studies.These behaviors are usually abnormal to the individual’s history of behavior.