A Conversation With Travis Rieder
In 2015, Travis Rieder was hit by a van while he was riding his motorcycle. Unfortunately, this experience crushed his foot and for a long time, doctors werent sure whether theyd be able to save it. Over the course of the next five weeks, Travis spent time in three hospitals and had a total of five surgeries as doctors cut, poked and prodded him in an effort to save his foot. Because he was experiencing incredible pain, he was given morphine, fentanyl and hydromorphone through an IV in the hospital. During breaks when he returned home from the hospital, he was also given increasing dosages of oxycodone and gabapentin.
While Travis wasnt concerned at the time about the amount of medications he was being prescribed, that changed when he visited his orthopaedic surgeon about two months after the accident for a follow-up appointment. It was at that point that his surgeon asked him how much pain medication he was taking.
When Travis nonchalantly told him that he wastaking 115mg of oxycodone a day possibly more his surgeon turned serious. He said, Travis, thats a lot of opioids. You need to think about getting off the meds now.
Because this was the first time anyone had expressed concern about the painkillers he was taking, Travis was stunned. For months hed been receiving increasingly higher doses and nobody had ever warned him about the risks of opioid dependence.
How Should You Store And Dispose Of Opioids To Protect Family Members
If you are taking opioids, you are not the only one in your household who is in danger of misuse, addiction, and overdose. Other members of your household, including children, are also vulnerable. Hereâs how to protect them:
- Always store opioids in a safe and secure place. Do not leave prescription bottles in the medicine cabinet, and keep the medication away from others, particularly young children. Children sometimes confuse medications with candy and end up swallowing them, which can lead to overdose. Other family members and visitors could also find prescription medications in the house and use them inappropriately.
- Never share your prescriptions. More than half of people who misuse prescribed opioids get them from a friend or relative, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Donât throw unused opioids in the trash. Improper disposal of prescription medicines can lead to other people finding and taking them.
If you have leftover or expired prescription medications, follow these drug disposal tips:
Physician anesthesiologists are the most highly skilled medical experts in anesthesia care, pain management, and critical care medicine, with the education and training that can mean the difference between life and death.
What Is An Overdose
Opioid overdoses happen when there are so many opioids overloading the body that the brain shuts down breathing. This happens because opioids fit into specific receptors in the brain that have an effect on breathing. If someone cant breathe or isnt breathing enough, then oxygen cant get to the brain and after a very short time the heart stops, which leads to unconsciousness, coma, then death. The lack of oxygen from slowed or stopped breathing is the key dangerous aspect to an opioid overdose.
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Treating Opioid Addiction Begins With Admitting Theres A Problem
If youve gotten hooked on painkillers , it might not be so easy to get off of them. Whether you or someone close to you started taking opioids after surgery or an injury, or youve gotten the medication from someone else, for some people the pain-relieving feeling is so euphoric that after just one or two doses, they become completely dependent and wanting more. And for some of those people, that dependencyof needing to have the drug in the body to feel comfortableturns into full-blown opioid addiction.
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Opioid addiction is often characterized by:
- Misuse or overuse of the drug
- Mixing it with other drugs or alcohol for heightened effect
- Going to different prescribers to try to get more
- Crushing the pills so it can be snorted, injected or mixed with other substances
- Mentally craving or obsessing about the next dose of opioids
Going cold turkey to get off of opioids is not an option for most people when it comes to treating opioid addiction. The withdrawal symptoms can be severe as the drug leaves the body, which can take up to 10 days. And many people who have reached this stage of addiction to opioids require medical oversight, which may include medication-assisted treatment , when appropriate, as well as drug addiction treatment and support.
If youre concerned about your own opioid addiction or that of someone you love, then its time to get treatment.
How Pain Pills Work
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that about 54 million Americans have misused a prescription drug at least once in their lives. At the time of the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health , approximately 4.3 million American adults were considered to be currently abusing prescription painkillers.
Taking these drugs, even as directed, can lead to physical and psychological dependence, as the brain gets used to the chemical changes incurred by their interference. When an opioid drug enters the brain, fills an opioid receptor, and depresses the central nervous system, it also increases the presence of dopamine and endorphins. Dopamine is one of the brains chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, that signals feelings of pleasure. With repeated chemical interference, the brain may stop making and absorbing dopamine naturally, and brain chemistry may be negatively impacted. This is called drug dependence. When an opioid drug wears off, dopamine levels dip and both physical and emotional discomfort can occur.
Opioid withdrawal can be difficult, and individuals may struggle to stop taking prescription painkillers as a result. A loss of control over dosage and the frequency of taking these drugs, and overall compulsive drug use, may result these are the hallmarks of addiction. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine , 2 million Americans battled prescription opioid addiction in 2015.
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Turn To Gateway For Help With Addiction And Pain Management
If you are struggling with an addiction to prescription opioids or you use drugs or alcohol to address painful symptoms, dont go through this alone. At Gateway in Chicago, Illinois, our team is dedicated to helping those in the grips of addiction get the help they need to take control of their life.
Through evidence-based treatment, including specialized pain relief techniques and counseling services, we can help you work through issues related to chronic pain. Our compassionate staff wants to help you find freedom from pain and freedom from addiction. To learn more, please contact us online or call to speak with a member of our team at 877.379.9078.
Can Opioids Be Taken Responsibly
Opioids are an effective painkiller and should be used appropriately, and to do so, the patient needs to take a level or responsibility for their medical care. If you are going to have a medical procedure, you should have a conversation with your physician about pain control.
Ask questions like:
- You are prescribing me this many tablets. Do I really need these?
- What is your strategy for pain control?
- What options do I have other than an opioid to help control my pain?
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Create A Medication Tapering Schedule
Before you can begin to wean from drugs, you will need to know how much you take right now. Write down your current doses of the drugs you take, and create a safe taper schedule in which you take just a little bit less every day. Do not get drastic with your cuts. Instead, think about turning off your supply very, very slowly. Small reductions will be easier for you to tolerate, when compared to big shifts. Those small reductions will add up to big changes in time.
Avoid The Addiction Trap
If your behavior is harmful or impacting your quality of life and you are unable to stop, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you regain control, or refer you to a healthcare professional who specializes in substance abuse disorders.
The key to minimizing the risk of opioid addiction is to not take a the drugs longer term, according to the CDC. If you need a prescription to treat severe short-term pain, the CDC recommends a short coursethree day’s worth is typically sufficient. For persistent pain, talk to your doctor about other types of pain medication and nondrug measures that can provide just as much or more relief than an opioid with less risk. If you wind up taking an opioid for chronic pain, the CDC advises starting at the lowest effective dose and checking in with your doctor regularly to make sure that the drug is helping and that you are able to take it safely.
Read more on the latest advice from the CDC on using opioids to treat chronic pain.
Editor’s Note: This article and related materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multistate settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin .
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Alternative Methods Of Pain Management
With so many people invested in making chronic pain sufferers feel better, alternative methods of pain management are being developed to offer people new ways to cope. A research study published in JMIR Serious Games highlighted the possible impacts of using applied gaming as a possible coping strategy for those impacted by chronic pain. While the research itself is still relatively new, researchers are finding that pleasurable activities, such as playing video games, may offer relief to those suffering from chronic pain.
Furthermore, it is possible to learn new pain management strategies using mental techniques taught by a licensed therapist or counselor. Those in the military are often taught how to manage pain in the event that they need those skills. Some of the same techniques can be utilized in civilian populations to improve pain management outcomes. Some actors have even learned and utilized these techniques to wear highly uncomfortable prosthetics or other devices on screen.
Oftentimes, a combination of approaches works best for those seeking to manage chronic pain without relying on potentially addictive medications. If you are already struggling with an addiction to your pain medication, comprehensive treatment can help. The right treatment program will take your chronic pain into account, ensuring you have other means to manage it while helping you to effectively manage your addiction.
How To Beat Addiction To Painkillers
If you fear that someone you know might have an addiction to painkillers, it is incredibly difficult to make that person get the help they need until they admit to themselves that they have a problem. It can be difficult to make someone admit that they have an addiction, but there are some ways to encourage them.
- Encourage them to visit a doctor for a routine check-up and inform the doctor beforehand of your concerns. A doctor will be able to spot the signs of an addict and will offer to help.
- Dont give them money. No matter what they tell you it is for, if you suspect someone is an addict, the chances are that they are asking for money to buy drugs. Giving in will not help the situation.
- Offer non-confrontational support. It is unlikely to help if you aggressively approach an addict and demand that they admit to it and get help. This only increases their anxiety and pushes them further towards drugs. Instead, calmly approach them and tell them that you are there should they ever need your support. Having emotional and non-judgemental understanding is important.
- Stage an intervention. This is not something that should be done lightly, and great care needs to be taken to let the addict know that they are not being ganged upon. Have their closest friends and family members tell them that they are worried for them, they love them, and want to help them get better.
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Twin Cities Pain Clinics: Where You Can Go To Get Help For Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is pain that lasts for more than three months. If you have chronic pain, HealthPartners pain treatment program can give you the tools to take control and manage pain without pills. We have pain clinic locations in Bloomington, Coon Rapids, St. Louis Park and St. Paul. Each of these clinics provides a range of services that treat the sources of pain. They include physical therapy, sleep medicine, mental health therapy, massage therapy and non-opioid medicines.
National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP
If you are ready to find treatment options for mental health or substance use disorders, call this number for 24/7 confidential help and guidance
When The Signs Of A Pain Pill Addiction Become Clear: How To Get Your Loved One Help
Help yourself first
Before you can help your friend or relative, you need to help yourself. While its normal and entirely understandable to be feeling angry and hurt over your loved ones behavior, until youve worked through those emotions and are able to see your loved ones irrational actions from a place of objectivity and compassion, you wont be in a position to help. Join a support group or speak with a therapist before confronting your loved one so that youll be best prepared for the difficulties that lie ahead. Confronting an addict and convincing him or her to seek help is an emotionally trying experience and youll want to make sure you have all the education and support you can get ahead of time.
Seek assistance from a professional
Dont think you have to deal with this on your own. Why reinvent the wheel when you dont have to? 12-step support groups, addiction specialists and rehabilitation facilities have been helping friends and family members just like you for decades. They can use their experience and knowledge to help you develop a strategy for getting your loved one off the medications in a safe and healthy way. Theyll also teach you and your loved one painkiller-free alternatives to pain recovery, such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga and healthy eating.
Call Las Vegas Recovery. Lets talk about how we can get your recovery started.
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Get Help Controlling Tapering Doses
It is hard to wean off drugs when large quantities of substances are sitting out in the open just waiting to be used. You can get past this issue by keeping supplies of drugs or alcohol in a locked cabinet. Ideally, you will give the key to that cabinet to a trusted person who will help to control the doses. That way, it will be hard or impossible for you to binge. The person with the key will help you to stick to your original plan.
The Difference Between Addiction And Dependence
To help us better understand the opioid crisis, Travis explains that first, doctors need to understand the difference between addiction and dependence. He explains the distinction by saying that many drugs like alcohol and SSRIs cause a physiological reaction once a persons cut off from them.
As he puts it, Almost anyone who is exposed to these drugs in high doses for a long enough time gets dependent. Of course, this means that theyll experience withdrawal symptoms. However, withdrawal symptoms arent evidence of an addiction.
Addiction is characterised by whats sometimes cravings, loss of control and negative consequences. So, people who are addicted to opioids might choose drugs over their family and careers, because they become all-consumed with thoughts of acquiring those drugs, even when the consequences are severe.
Theres a behavioural component that just isnt present with those dependent on drugs. Travis, for instance, had a house full of pills but didnt take more than he was prescribed or engage in risky behaviour to try to acquire more. By understanding the difference between these two reactions Travis believes doctors are in a better position to treat their patients.
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Can Opioid Addiction Be Prevented Or Avoided
Many people are able to use opioids safely without becoming addicted to them. But their potential for addiction is high. This is especially true if you use them for long-term pain management.
In general, you are more likely to avoid addiction if you can use opioid drugs no longer than a week. Research shows that using them for more than a month can make you dependent on them.
Replacement Medications And Detox
Physically, opioid withdrawal is typically similar to a particularly bad case of the flu, including symptoms like stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, chills, muscle aches, runny nose, tearing of the eyes, and insomnia. Emotionally, individuals are likely to feel anxious, depressed, irritable, and agitated in addition to suffering from strong cravings for the drugs. The National Library of Medicine publishes that withdrawal symptoms likely begin within about 12 hours after the last dose of an opioid drug. Autonomic functions of the central nervous system that have been regularly suppressed by the opioid drug can become hyperactive during withdrawal, and things like body temperature, respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure can be irregular.
Admission to a medical detox program is ideal to stop taking pain pills safely. Withdrawal symptoms that result from stopping a prescription opioid pain reliever once a dependence has formed can be extremely uncomfortable, and for this reason, it is not recommended to stop taking these drugs cold turkey, or suddenly. Instead, they are often tapered off slowly over a set period of time to allow the brain a chance to recover and re-stabilize itself.
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