Monday, January 13, 2020

Cold Turkey Anyone? Addiction, Withdrawal and Ways Forward for those Living with Chronic Pain

Writing articles allows me to research and create information pieces which are close to my heart and hopefully are of interest to others. I’m able to apply my own experiences and gather experiences of others to create informative pieces. While fiction and my children's stories are usually my priority, I go through phases where I can write non-fiction more easily. This is probably linked to the ebb and flow of my health but it gives me a different focus - that's how my blog started in fact! Here is an  article I wrote about living with chronic pain and addiction to painkillers.

Cold Turkey Anyone?

Taking regular pain medication is a tough road to tread. At the onset of chronic pain, ,patients take whatever they're given to reduce symptoms, sometimes even welcoming the side effects of sleep and drowsiness to dull the half life they seem to be living.
Chronic pain sufferers often can't see a way out or a time when the need for addictive pain killers will pass and so ask their doctors to just stop the pain.
Tramadol and Fentanyl are two medications prescribed for long term chronic pain, although Tramadol is more recently being given for short term post operative pain. They are both addictive and tend to be given when other less addictive substances have proved to be less effective painkillers for the patient's ongoing chronic pain.
As medical science is forever evolving, breakthroughs are happening every day, providing welcome answers. Lucky long term chronic pain sufferers are sometimes offered operations which will reduce the need for the drug cocktails in the long term, but with the proviso that there will be trouble ahead - hard physical work in the form of physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and steadily improving mobility. One of the main hardships is often the least discussed and usually the least prepared for. Withdrawal from medication the patient's body has formed a physical and/or emotional addiction to brings the whole range of  lows that come with it.
Not all patients offered the operations accept the help as they may not have the support at home . For those working with such a condition, they cannot afford to take the time from work such procedures would need.
But with new medical knowledge, people living with chronic pain are increasingly being taken off these opiates as the long term side effects are now known. 

With addiction and withdrawal all too prevalent in the world, cigarette and alcohol addictions and beyond, support is well advertised with high uptake with those willing to start their recovery.. As they lie in their beds at night wracked with pain, sleep patterns shot, internal temperature gauges in line with menopausal hot flushes and a sensation akin to bees crawling through their veins night and day,  they have substitutes to lessen the pain while their bodies cleanse themselves until they are, once more, drug free.

However, the support networks available for patients reducing their pain medication are varied, with some patients receiving little more than a friendly chat with their local chemist.
Withdrawal from prescription drugs which are derived from morphine and opium are among the most brutal to overcome. Already weak members of the community find themselves experiencing even more pain, difficulty and emotional trauma as they attempt to reduce the pain killers they no longer require.
And this is where our chronically ill community are split. Many take on the initial challenge of an operation, that much is true. But cold turkey is not something people like to admit to experiencing and may not even truly understand the reasons why they are feeling so on edge, emotional, hormonal, or just generally out of sorts. Withdrawal can be incredibly isolating, with patients desperate to regain their health, yet experiencing such lows and new types of pain as they endeavour to rid their bodies of the painkillers they have taken to handle long term chronic pain conditions.

"Driving my addiction is chronic pain from Multiple Schlorosis, Lupos and Endometriosis, not to mention depression and anxiety."

Depression and/or anxiety develops alongside chronic illness and is usually medicated as a first response with a view to the person engaging with talking therapies and CBT.

With these symptoms, it then becomes incredibly difficult to see a way forward in terms of medication reduction. Sadly, many just find a level of  medication they can cope with, without experiencing heavier withdrawal symptoms and then live a  half life rather than braving out the next six months needed to fully rid the body of such dangerous drugs while managing their chronic pain condition.

"The anxiety I feel withdrawing from this drug [fentanyl] is almost inhumane"

"Shooting heroin was easier to come off than these [fentanyl] patches are"

"My blood feels like it is boiling inside of me"

However, there is help available. Pain Clinics offer Pain Management programmes where practices such as visualisation, yoga, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and talking therapies are offered alongside the more traditional approaches. Awareness of withdrawal and alternative medications are improving and so chronic pain no longer needs to be the inevitable spiral in to meds and oblivion it once was. With spport from friends, family, support groups and forward-thinking doctors, those with chronic pain may now see a more positive way forward.

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