- Peter R. Coleman, MD
A lot of the patients who come to us to be detoxed off opiates have never used street drugs. They are chronic pain patients who have become dependent on opiate pain medicine prescribed to them in a doctor’s office.
These are patients who started on narcotic pain medication for significant painful conditions, but they are now stuck on the medicine and unable to stop on their own. It can be a very cruel situation because they are taking chronic pain medicine, but they are still in a lot of pain. Sometimes, they become dependent on the opiate pain medicines because they had to take the medicine for such a long period of time. This caused their body to become very dependent on the painkiller medications.
Sometimes, they had a pre-disposition for addiction, so the opiate pain medicine very quickly set off a physical dependency. In other situations, they had a previous addiction to alcohol or other drugs, and now, they have been prescribed narcotic pain medicines and that quickly leads to them being becoming addicted to this new medicine.
When these opiate pain medicines are taken over a lengthy period of time, they change the brain and the body in ways that are not helpful. Chronic pain is quite different from acute pain. In an acute pain situation, like a broken bone, the brain responds well to the pain by making its own natural endorphins and any pain medicine works well to supplement relief. But, in a chronic pain situation, opiates are often taken over a prolonged period of time. When opiate medicines are taken over a protracted period, tolerance starts building up rapidly so that the same dose of medicine loses its effectiveness, and then, people need more and more in order to receive the same effect.
Unfortunately, when high doses of the narcotic medicine are taken, more side effects start showing up, as well. Worse yet, is the brain’s endorphin system gets suppressed so that the brain loses its ability to make its own endorphins. This typically causes the patient has have less energy, less good quality sleep, and more pain. People often notice they are having a lot more of the same pain they were taking the medicine for, but they also have a lot more other aches and pains.
This can even transfer into emotional pain, as patients taking opiate pain medicines for a long time, often feel more irritable, grumpy, depressed, and anxious. They generally don’t feel very happy. They have low energy. They are usually frustrated and lose much hope for a better future. Of course, they do get some relief from these negative feelings when they take their opiate pain medicine, but they only achieving a short period of relief. The pain medicines quickly wear off and this leaves the patient feeling worse than before.
As a result, the typical pain patient has to still live with a lot of pain. The pain they originally started with is still there and not getting any better. And, the rest of their life feels painful, too. Sometimes, it is very hard for patients to determine if the pain they are feeling is really that bad, or they are just suffering with withdrawal from the opiate pain medicines they are taking. It is difficult for the patients to know if they would be better off without the pain medicine, since it is really not helping relieve the pain.
A number of patients come to us wanting to get off their pain medicine because they have come to believe that that the pain medicines are really not working well, and their quality of life is poor. They are willing to take a risk that the pain they are suffering from, will not be too bad, and in fact, they have starting to believe that they will actually be better off without opiate pain medicines. Our experience has been very dramatic with these patients. Over 90% of the chronic pain patients who have detoxed off their opiates have found that the pain they have is actually less when compared to when they were taking their opiate painkillers.
This month, we have a video of a patient who was in this chronic pain dilemma. And, he was willing to share his story of what his life was like on the painkillers, and then, let us video him as he went through our accelerated detoxification. He has found, like most of our patients, that just a few weeks after the detoxification, his pain is considerably less and his quality of life is dramatically better.