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The experience of pain is a complex physical and psychological phenomenon. There is no objective way to measure a person’s level of pain, and since the 1980s, physicians have been instructed to make pain control a priority in the treatment of their patients. Thus, physicians only have the patient’s self-report and a general idea of the significance of different types of injuries, conditions, illnesses, etc., with regard to the level of pain that these conditions are most often expected to produce.
Different types of pain often require the use of different types of medications. Pain-relieving medications can be purchased over the counter, or they may require a prescription from a physician. Prescription pain medications are often much more effective in their ability to reduce the experience of pain; however, they also carry a number of significant risks that require their use to be supervised by a trained physician. Therefore, they are classified as controlled substances by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. These prescription pain medications fall into a number of classes.
The term addiction is still used in a number of different sources; however, most professional organizations have refined the use of their terminology and now use the term substance use disorder to cover all notions of substance abuse and addiction. This is because the process of addiction is now viewed as occurring on a continuum between substance abuse/misuse and a formal addiction. The new term covers all notions of addictive behaviors associated with substance use.
It is important to briefly outline some qualifications regarding the actual definition of a substance use disorder. According to professional sources, such as the book Chemical Dependency:
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the risk for developing a substance use disorder as a result of misuse of pain medications increases for individuals who:
These factors increase the risk that an individual will abuse any type of drug or alcohol. According to APA and NIDA, the signs of an opiate use disorder include:
The American Society of Addiction Medicine, the largest association of addiction medicine physicians and professionals in the US, has outlined a standard treatment protocol for individuals who develop substance use disorders to medications such as painkillers. The protocol includes the following: