Many of our patients begin taking opioid medications after having them prescribed by a doctor to lessen pain from injury or other ailments. While some patients are able to stick to short-term opioid treatment programs, those who use the painkillers for an extended amount of time are at greater risk for developing opioid tolerance.
Tolerance is a phenomenon where the pain relieving effects of the medication decrease over time, so the patient feels they need more of the drug to achieve the same effect. While many long-term opioid patients develop tolerance over a matter of time, some can acquire something known as acute tolerance after just a few doses in a very short time period or even one dose in extreme cases. Opioid tolerance is well-documented amongst chronic pain patients worldwide. In fact, a study by Bhamb et al. 2006, revealed that approximately 61 percent of all physicians noted a concerned about tolerance developing in chronic pain management patients.
Opioid Tolerance and its’ Risks
Aside from their pain relieving effects, opioid painkillers like Oxycontin, Vicodin and Opana, are also well-known to create other side-effects including euphoria, respiratory depression, sedation, urinary retention, constipation, as well as affecting several bodily functions. Many studies have shown that chronic opioid patients can develop tolerance to all these side effects as well, making them worse in various cases.
For many patients, tolerance to prescription painkillers can be the tip of the iceberg, as long-term opioid use can also lead to very serious conditions, like physical dependency and hyperalgesia. Hyperalgesia is marked by an increased sensitivity to pain, which for those with chronic pain can be excruciating. Physical dependency often accompanies opioid tolerance, and occurs when symptoms of withdrawal surface following the abrupt cessation of an opioid medication.
If you suspect you or someone you know may be experiencing dependency to opiates, or if you have questions about prescription painkillers, we urge you to contact your medical physicians. For more information on choosing an opiate detox program, please feel free to contact our office directly. You can also visit www.opiates.com for a tremendous resource of information on different treatments, drugs, news, and much more.