Hello and congratulations on getting sober! The reason why NA and AA programs require complete abstinence is because once you become an addict, you know that you can remove yourself from difficult situations, self-doubt, loneliness and all types of emotional pain by getting high. Once you cross over from assuming life's problems must be coped with to knowing you can use a substance to escape, you are in serious danger of becoming addicted to any mood altering substance.
This is hard to accept, because once our drug(s) of choice are no longer an option, we don't have that escape hatch ready and waiting anymore!
I am a fibromyalgia patient who has had multiple abdominal surgeries and severe G.I. health problems for all of my adulthood. I have endured terrible pain on a regular basis, and I do understand what it means to suffer.
The significant dangers of opiates are starting to be widely known in the medical community. Most people with opiate addictions started out using the meds for legitimate reasons, following their dr.'s orders for dosing. They don't start out taking handfuls of meds and going on pleasant mental vacations. They start with good intentions and a real need for pain relief.
Herein lies the problem: When you are an addict, you are highly susceptible to transferring your addiction from a substance you used in the past (but now abstain from) to a new substance. This doesn't happen occasionally--it happens so often that an addict must have great vigilance to avoid starting a new addiction.
This new addiction will start the same way they all do: you can control your intake, you may not take it every day, and you don't crave or look forward to the drug. This honeymoon phase is the time you look back on once you are hook, line and sinker addicted to another substance, and you say to yourself, "Why can't I just go back to how it was before?"
Addiction to opiates is becoming such a huge problem that dr.'s guidelines for prescribing them are only going to get more restrictive. The fact is, opiate addiction overwhelmingly originates with a dr.'s prescription for legitimate pain. What are the alternatives for managing pain without narcotics?
Your first line of defense against pain are antidepressants. Medications such as Elavil and Pamelor have been proven to prevent and control chronic pain. Often, these meds are effective in much smaller doses than those needed to control depression, and are tolerated well in the low doses needed to treat chronic pain. They take time to become effective (4-6 weeks, on average), and should not be discontinued before they can start to work, just because they do not provide instant relief.
Another option? Anticonvulsant medications, such as Neurontin, Tegretol and Lyrica. These meds are effective in controlling nasty nerve pain (among the worst type of pain) without using opiates. A note about Lyrica: It can make some people feel woozy or unsteady, possibly mimicking a drunken feeling, which can be an issue for someone who is an addict or alcoholic. These effects are short-lived at prescribed doses and will recede on their own once your body gets used to the medication, AS LONG AS YOU DO NOT CONTINUALLY INCREASE YOUR DOSE TO RECREATE THE INITIAL FEELING.)
Cymbalta and Milnacipran (Savella) are two new antidepressant meds that show great promise in controlling chronic pain, and they can be an excellent alternative to traditional pain meds for many!
Exhaust all of your other options for pain relief before going on opiates. Rx opiate addictions can easily lead to overdoses, seizures and liver damage. Tolerance to these meds means ever-increasing doses are needed, which in turn causes more harm to your body and less pain relief.
The gold standard for chronic pain relief is quickly becoming daily administration of antidepressant and/or anticonvulsant medication, with NSAIDS for breakthrough pain relief. Physical therapy, hot and cold compresses, (Rx) local anesthetic gels, exercise and holistic medicine techniques such as acupuncture and meditation can also be helpful.
No, not everyone becomes addicted to opiates. But the dirty truth is coming out: plenty of people are, and you would never know it because it is a secretive addiction that people can keep even from their own family members and their doctors. Opiate addiction is exploding, and it is every bit as difficult to stop as alcohol or any illegal drugs.