In the world of recovery and addiction treatment, a new and disturbing trend has been cropping up among newly recovering addicts. Addiction to drugs that help nerve pain has become more prevalent than ever in the recovery community. While this may sound completely counter-intuitive, the source of this newfound addiction is even more insidious than you may think.
What Are Drugs that Help Nerve Pain?
Traditionally, opiates have been used to treat any form of ache or pain that someone may experience. However, with the explosion of the opioid epidemic in this country, with around 120 deaths per day attributed to overdosing, a new, “non-narcotic” technique was slated for development. Non-narcotic simply refers to the idea that the prescribed medication contains no addictive tendencies and thus is considered safe for consumption by addicts and non-addicts alike. It is commonly believed that taking these so-called non-narcotic medications are by all means safe and effective when it comes to treating newly recovering addicts, but unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.
Some of these non-narcotic drugs that help nerve pain are Gabapentin (Neurontin), Carbamazepine (Tegretol), Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), Pregabalin (Lyrica), and Topamax. These are considered anticonvulsants, drugs that help nerve pain and treat epilepsy. Essentially, they work by changing the way that nerves send messages to your brain. In this way, nerve pain can be circumvented. Also, they’re all considered to be completely safe by having “no addictive tendencies.” However, as many addicts and alcoholics in early recovery are discovering, this may not be entirely true.
Johnnies and the Addict
One of the specific drugs that help nerve pain that appears to be especially troublesome is none other than Gabapentin. Gabapentin or brand-named Neurontin has been gaining a lot of popularity in recent years. Lovingly nicknamed “Johnnies” by the people who use the medication, it has quickly become apparent that this “non-narcotic” is not as innocuous as medical professionals may have hoped.
Originally designed to treat seizures specifically, it was discovered by doctors to possess the ability as a drug to help nerve pain. Thanks to its non-narcotic label, it became the go-to drug to prescribe newly recovering addicts who could no longer take opiates. However, Gabapentin is still addictive, although not in the traditional sense. A person, especially someone predisposed to addictive tendencies, can develop a psychological addiction to the drug.
When the drug is removed from the user, the individual can feel as though they cannot function without it. Accustomed to the sensation it provides, the person may believe they cannot relax or remain pain-free without taking the medication. Even withdrawal symptoms may materialize. Typical PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) symptoms become prevalent, such as vomiting, confusion, headache, and flu-like symptoms. A full-blown withdrawal process may ensue as a result of cessation.
Is the Treatment Industry the New Drug Dealer?
So, if these drugs that help nerve pain are far more culpable for addiction than previously thought, how are addicts getting their hands on them? Many times, people who suffer from chronic pain are put on a regimen of opiates in order to treat their symptoms. Over time, whether you’re an actual addict/alcoholic or not, dependence ensues. Once the opioid dependency begins, many people find themselves unable to afford their prescriptions or needing more than previously prescribed by the doctor. They turn to buying them on the streets or even turning to heroin as a supplemental source for their opiates. Now in full-blown addiction, it’s time to head off to treatment.
Upon their arrival to their rehab, the client is assessed by a medical staff. While the opiates are removed, the cause of the pain still remains prevalent, requiring some sort of treatment. Thus, the medical doctor turns to “non-narcotic” alternative drugs that help nerve pain like Topamax or Neurontin. And then, the cycle continues.
The medical staff at the treatment center has inadvertently become the new drug dealer to the client. Clients are often loaded up with a regime of non-narcotic supplemental medications to treat their colorful variety of health issues, but unfortunately, it seems to merely perpetuate the addiction cycle. Addiction is an insidious disease that can take many different forms.
So- What Do We Do?
Addicts have found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to drugs that help nerve pain. It seems no matter if they take the narcotic route or not, they are destined to run into some sort of dependence. But we’re still in pain. What can we do? Is sobriety really out of reach for anyone suffering from chronic nerve pain?
Fear not- there are other options available! Many treatment facilities offer therapies designed to treat their clients suffering from chronic pain that are far more holistic than pharmaceuticals known as “pain management programs.” Some non-medication avenues to explore are as followed:
- Acupuncture Therapy– placing needles into specific point among “meridian lines”. It is a form of traditional Chinese medicine, around for thousands of years designed to stimulate the nervous system in a different way by use of the needles, causing pain to subside. It has been deemed very effective for certain conditions by the medical community.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)– a small battery-operated pulse generator that transmits pulses into the user’s skin via adhesives. The idea is that the stimulation of nerve fibers in this manner causes interference with and temporary interruption of pain transmission.
- Hypnosis– by use of hypnotic techniques that directly impact the subconscious mind, it can successfully alleviate the sensory/ or effective components of a pain experience.
- Counseling– a therapist can teach relaxation techniques, changing beliefs about pain in general, building new coping skills to deal with the pain, and can address the depression and anxiety associated with the pain.
- Ice/Heat Therapy– using the alternating application of ice and heat to problem areas, causes the contraction and relaxation of the muscles and tissues. It can provide temporary relief when it comes to nerve pain.
- Corset/Support Treatment– using appliances as supports to painful areas. The appliances can remove some of the stress and pressure being applied to these areas, causing the pain to be greatly lessened or removed altogether.
- Exercise– seemingly counter-intuitive to someone in pain, exercise can actually be a great treatment for chronic pain. By working out the body, and building up the muscles and tissues, it can actually completely remove all sensations of pain. The increased blood flow to the painful area coupled with the release of endorphins can alleviate all pain on a temporary basis, but of course, you should not engage in physical activity without the okay of your doctor.
There is Hope!
It can be intimidating to know that addiction and alcoholism are always right around the corner. Sometimes getting that little push and having medical guidance can be what it takes. Relapse and active addiction/alcoholism are only as preventable as much as we value the sobriety we hold in our hands. If you or a loved one has been struggling with getting a firm grasp on sobriety and need detoxification, please call 800-982-5530 or visit restoredtx.wpengine.com. Our teams of specialists are waiting by to help figure out what options are best for sending your life is a comfortable direction that you can proudly stand behind.