Pain Medication - Addiction vs Tolerance

Go down

Pain Medication - Addiction vs Tolerance

Post  Chrisofsmeg on Wed Jul 06, 2011 1:05 pm

I'd just like to get this post out there because chronic pain sufferers have to deal with all kinds of crap regarding this issue.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as such:

"Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in the individual pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. The addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can involve cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death."

In simpler terms, it is a psychological craving of a particular thing (i.e. opiates, amphetamines, benzodiazepines etc), and has many physiological, psychological and behavioral impacts, of which I will not bore you with the details.

It is a term that is often used to label people with a stigma, by many sources. People unfamiliar with this branch of medicine frequently use the terms addiction, dependance and tolerance as synonyms without knowing any better. In some instances, even doctors have been known to do it.

Dependance refers to a physiological (not psychological) need for the drug. This simply means that if they stop taking it they will have withdrawal symptoms. It has no negative connotation and can occur with too much of just about anything. Coffee for example. If you regularly drink a lot of coffee and then stop drinking coffee all of a sudden, you will have problems such as irritability and headaches. Dependance is not an indicator of addiction as there is no psychological necessity to have coffee.

Tolerance is the biggest problem in terms of being confused with addiction, in my experience. When a person has been taking certain kinds of medication for long periods of time, their body can require more and more of the drug to have the same effect. While this does occur in some cases, it very rarely occurs in people taking medications for legitimate medical reasons. It most often occurs when people are abusing drugs, prescription or otherwise, and often have to continually increase their intake of the drug in order to get the same effect.

Only 1/500,000 people who are taking regular medications such as opiates or benzodiazepines for pain or anxiety, for example, develop addiction, when they are taking this medication at the dosage specified by their physician. Very few of these patients develop tolerance either. I myself have been on opiates for four years, and am on the same dosage of the medication I am currently on as I was then - and it still works. I've also been on benzodiazepines for a few months and still have the same effect at the dose I started on.

I have no agenda with this post other than to educate and inform. The message I'm intending to convey here is that addiction, tolerance and dependance are three very different terms that should not be confused.

For example, while I am dependant on my medication in that I would be in increased pain, have higher anxiety levels and have difficultly sleeping should I stop taking them, I am not tolerant to the effects of these medications as they still work exactly as they did when I began taking them, and I am not an addict as I never take more than the prescribed amount, do not psychologically crave the medications, and I do not lie, cheat or steal in order to get more of the medications.

I hope that this doesn't sound preachy, but that some of you found it informative. If I've missed anything, feel free to let me know. If you disagree with any of what I have said, feel equally free to let me know. Feel free to discuss the issue. Aside from informing, this post has done wonders to vent years of frustration and stigma for me, so I'm happy either way Smile



"You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might find you get what you need"


Sufferer of: Chronic pain, Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Agoraphobia, Chronic Migraines, Restless Legs Syndrome, Chronic Insomnia.


Posts : 53
Join date : 2011-07-06
Age : 26
Location : London, UK

Back to top Go down

Re: Pain Medication - Addiction vs Tolerance

Post  Kunoichi on Thu Jul 07, 2011 9:27 pm

Very informative Chris and of course I completely agree with you having been on the receiving end of prejudices for this. Thanks for posting! Smile

Posts : 240
Join date : 2010-07-26
Age : 30

Back to top Go down

Back to top

- Similar topics

Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum