Using narcotics

Posted June, 2008

A misunderstood class of drugs

First and foremost, it's important to recognize that narcotics are neither "good" or "bad." They, like all drugs, are tools. And tools are just that: things we use to perform certain tasks. In this case, narcotics can be used carefully, to relieve pain and improve life, or carelessly, to destroy health and ruin life.

It's up to both the doctor and the patient to control how these extremely powerful chemical tools are prescribed and then implemented to help manage chronic pain.

There are folks who—because of comments in the press about illicit drugs—regard all narcotics as "bad." When offered them, these people often say things like, "Oh, no, I don't want to take those pills!" The mistake patients like this make is that they've grouped illegal drugs and the misuse of legal drugs into the same category as carefully-applied medications used under a doctor's supervision.

Let's get this clear right away: the two are apples and oranges. There's a big difference. It's critical to get this misunderstanding fixed up for those who regard them as "the same." They're not.

Think about narcotics as "dynamite." It's not a bad analogy, both are very powerful substances. You can make a bomb, plant it in a popular cafe, then detonate it to kill or wound innocent people. You can also use dynamite to clear rocks off a blocked road so an ambulance (and other traffic) can pass. One usage is destructive and hurtful. The other usage is constructive and helpful. Yet both are just "dynamite" doing what it does best: exploding.

Tools only do what we tell them to do. Nothing more, nothing less.

So…the thing to remember is that if you have chronic pain that's so intense it's adversely affecting your life, and your pain management physician suggests that you try a certain drug or drugs in combination, and one (or more) of these pharmeceuticals are narcotics, don't rule them out simply because of fear or suspicion that you'll become, "an addict."

Which brings us to our next important issue, and that's the difference between an "addict" and somebody who may be dependant on opiod or other narcotic pain medications in order to live normally.

Addiction is a lifestyle choice made by people with no pre-existing issues requiring that they ingest such medication. It's not much different than making a fashion choice—except the act has serious medical ramifications. It's a dangerous decision to carelessly use intoxicating drugs not for their pain relieving properties, but for another effect they offer in high doses: euphoria.

Addicts seek drugs to alter their mood. They seek their psychiatric effects—not their therapeutic properties.

Dependence on an opiod drug in order to live your life in a normal fashion, free of pain, is no different than the diabetic who must take insulin every day to keep his or her blood sugar under control. Would you regard such a person as an addict? We sure wouldn't.

If you have severe pain because of an injury or illness, and your physician believes that your life would improve under careful administration of opiod-type medication, you're being treated for an ailment, not seeking amusement or mood alteration.

Patients receiving such drugs are taking them for their therapeutic properties—not for their psychiatric effects.

That said, there's a final and perhaps the most important point we should cover: without first speaking to your doctor, never alter the way you take such drugs beyond the directions given to you by your physician. Never take a pill "early" or "double up" because you're feeling bad that day, or take more than you've been prescribed. Because they can make you feel much better it's easy to take narcotics lightly.

Don't make this awful mistake.

Opiods are powerful drugs that must—like all prescribed medications—be taken exactly as directed, with no allowance for the patient to "cheat." Not even a little bit. Unless the prescribing doctor says it's allowed to add a pill, or take two, you should never do it.

When taken as directed, opiods can provide profoundly life-improving relief from chronic pain. When used otherwise, you've taken your first step on a very slippery slope. Carefully follow what the doctor tells you to do and you'll be glad you did. Your pain should improve, and you'll have used a powerful medical tool with full and complete control.

Click here to read about our Narcotics Doctor-Patient agreement...