News Reports Say Former Addicts at Risk for RX Abuse

Does an individual with past drug addiction problems have any direct correlation to developing prescription drug abuse? According to reports, yes. In fact, this is a common concern with past drug users and their loved ones when seeking medical treatment. Because someone has lost him or herself to mind altering substances does it mean there's no chance for dealing with a wide variety of medical issues with prescription medications? Questions related to cross addiction are very frequent when a recovering/recovered drug addict is seeking medical help.

A report published in The Journal of Pain the official journal of the American Pain Society found that history of substance abuse can predict the misuse of prescription drugs. Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic observed 199 patients treated for chronic non-cancer pain, and found that 25% of patients with no known history of a substance use disorder had therapeutic opioid abuse.

In patients with a known history of substance abuse disorders, 83% had therapeutic opioid abuse. The study also revealed that patients with substance use disorders are more likely to receive opioids in higher dosages.

Past Drug Use in Relation to Future Drug Use

According to the study mentioned above, there are reasons why former addicts pose more of a risk for addiction than others. For example, sometimes cross addiction may occur when recovering individuals feel that their addiction is under control and therefore controlled use is possible. These addiction issues are closely related with but not limited to medication for pain management, sleep disorders, anxiety and attention deficit disorders. A person may recognize that their previous drug of choice is clearly not an option, but may feel that experimentation with other substances will be virtually harmless to their continuing recovery. Medical treatment, especially with prescription drugs, and recovering drug addicts has a naturally higher risk for problems related to addiction and relapse.

There is cause for concern when a patient with prior substance abuse issues feels they need a higher dosage or need to take more often than recommended.  Physicians and loved ones need to pay close attention to subtle changes that a past addict may display when using prescribed medications. There is an increased chance of developing prescription drug problems because of the patient’s past history with substance abuse. Many patients feel they have built up a tolerance with past drugs so it can be dangerous when it comes to both opioid and non-opioid drugs. 

Chronic Pain Cases

There are more than 100 million Americans suffering from chronic pain, and those with past substance abuse problems are no exception. Struggles that drug addicts face after they have decided to make a healthy recovery can be some of the most important for maintaining sobriety. Opioids are more likely to be the issue with patients with past addiction problems rather than over the counter non-opioid medications. Physicians supplied with accurate up to date medical history and records are qualified to assess a patient’s ability to use prescription drugs responsibly.

There is always a risk for relapse stemming from a prescription written in good faith by a trusted physician. There could be a time when an emergency visit is necessary, where busy doctor or nurse may not take the patients full medical history into account and prescribes a problematic medication. A responsible step that can help avoid this problem is having the practitioner check with his or her addiction professional before filling any medication that could potentially trigger addiction relapse. It’s important for medical professionals and family members to take notice of subtle changes in mood and how a loved one is acting while taking a doctor prescribed medication.

Preventing Prescription Abuse

Medical professionals and patients alike face this complicated issue when various health issues occur after or during recovery. A key goal for this important process is to manage pain while minimizing the risk for becoming dependent on prescription painkillers. Patients medical and drug history must be taken into account and be closely evaluated in each specific case. The most important step for physicians is to understand patients who are most at risk for developing prescription drug addiction.

Physicians should recommend and use alternatives to opioids whenever possible. In the cases when opioids must be prescribed, the dosage and pattern of use should be monitored very closely. It’s vital both physician and family are actively involved in a patients care. When questions or concerns arise during treatment it’s important to have consistent and productive communication between doctors, patients and loved ones. Most former addicts and those closest to them are well aware that long-term sobriety can be an ongoing process. Finding the right physician and treatment plan as well as having a strong healthy support system in place can help greatly reduce the risk of relapse and cross addiction issues.