As we have discussed in the previous blog post, addiction, especially opioid addiction, is a major issue for our society. And this is not just the abuse of drugs like heroin. Prescription medications are frequently abused. Patients become addicted to them very quickly when they are prescribed in large quantities for the treatment of pain. Unfortunately, medications such as oxycodone and OxyContin may be very effective in treating acute pain, but often don’t work that well for the long-term treatment of chronic pain. These prescription medications are refined to such a degree that addiction to them may come faster than addiction to heroin.
Increasingly the medical community is realizing that there are other methods for treating chronic pain that do not involve the prescription of an opioid or any medication. Effective pain management clinics often teach a variety of coping techniques such as relaxation training, visualization techniques, and auto-hypnosis.
In this blog post, we are going to focus on a public education strategy that uses challenge questions from a serious game, Bounce Back, that encourages participants to discuss the issues around opioid addiction. The questions ask that you respond to them by describing in some detail how you would deal with the challenge presented using the skills and attitudes of resilience.
We would encourage you to put yourself in the position of the person described in the next challenge and to think about how you would manage this challenge using resilience skills and attitudes. We would encourage you to share the challenge question with others and discuss how they have dealt with a similar situation or how they feel they would deal with the situation if they confronted it. Here’s the scenario:
“I’m tired. I took painkillers after a work-related injury so I could keep working. I’m a nurse and we work long shifts without enough staff. I continued using the drug because I can’t be sick and not work. And now, I can’t stop. I’ve lost my job, my wife and children, and most of my friends. I wonder if anyone would really miss me if I was gone.”
If you were in this position, what you do? Some of the things that we think would help a person coping with this challenge are to communicate it and connect with other people. Facing this alone makes it even more difficult. This situation requires managing all the strong feelings that you might have in dealing with those thoughts and impulses that direct you to self-harm. Suicide is not the answer. It never is. This is a situation that involves problem-solving, and problem-solving is best done with other people, not by yourself. You have to reach out and admit that you need help. This is part of taking care of yourself and being able to take care of your family.
There are other skills and attitudes of resilience that could certainly be applied to the situation. We would encourage you to discuss this with others and to come up with additional ones that you might use in managing this crisis.
We will be talking more about the issues around managing addiction in our society in the coming months.
Dr. Ron Breazeale