Unfortunately this has become an increasingly common situation across the country over in recent years.
It is important to recognize the difference between addiction and physical dependence. Addiction is continued use despite negative results. Physical dependence is the physical condition caused by chronic use of a tolerance-inducing drug, where withdrawal produces unpleasant physical symptoms.
Long Term Pain Medication Use
A patient who has been treated for a long time with opioid pain medicines like fentanyl, Roxicet®, Percocet®, Vicodin®, or other opiates will almost always encounter withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking their medication. People who take illegal opioids like heroin also experience withdrawal when they have used them long enough to develop physical dependence.
Physical Dependence Does Not Mean Drug Abuse
A high percentage of our patients are not drug abusers in any way. They simply developed a tolerance to the medicines that their doctors were prescribing…and many have since been told by their doctors they will no longer offer pain management services using opioids.
I have had patients tell me about their feeling of being left without alternatives or being given a list of prescribers—all of whom have lengthy waiting periods. Other people have told me that they found a new physician whose office then suddenly closed without explanation and left them struggling to avoid withdrawal.
“Bad guys have definitely messed it up for the rest of us,” a patient told me. “I’ve always complied with my pain management doctor’s instructions, but they’ve started treating me like a criminal. It’s like they think I’m selling my medication instead of taking it!”
Tough Calls By Pain Management Doctors
Why is this happening for patients who haven’t ever had “dirty” urine or sold their medication? Many of them have never missed an appointment, and–even more importantly—they have a chronic pain condition. Why are these patients being cut off from their medication?
Physicians who prescribe opiates for pain management are rightfully being closely watched to make sure they follow strict rules. It is well-known that over-prescribing contributed to the criminal diversion of prescription opiates. Prescribing controlled substances for pain has become a significant liability for many well-meaning practitioners (and hopefully for the malevolent actors), as well as a quagmire of complex documentation.
At the same time research continues to support the once unthinkable concept that perhaps opioids are not the best treatment for someone with a chronic pain condition.
Life Without Pain Medication Is Possible
For people who find themselves cut off by their pain management doctor, the Coleman Addiction Medicine offers a chance to start fresh and discover what the reality of No Opioids means. We do this in a safe and confidential outpatient setting. Our patients have their loved ones stay with them and participate as we guide them through a quick and relatively comfortable opiate detox.
After years of being on prescription medicines, many of our patients finish their detox in 4-8 days, depending on the type and dosage of the medications being taken, as well as any other medical conditions they may have.
Many of these patients had been completely convinced they needed to be on long-term pain medication; however, a surprisingly high percentage of these patients have since found out that it isn’t true.
Many patients discover they are more than able to handle the physical sensations they experience after their detox. And they continue to feel better as their bodies get the chance to start producing their own dopamine again. Our bodies were built to tolerate a certain level of pain.
Losing a doctor who is prescribing pain medications can be a stressful experience, and drives some people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily consider, like buying opioids illegally to stave off withdrawals.
There is a better alternative.
Please call us if you are facing this situation and would like to discuss the possibility of experiencing the freedom of not having to worry about taking pain medications again.
Joan R. Shepherd, FNP