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Addiction & Recovery Message Board

Addiction & Recovery Board Index

The "fine line" folks are talking about is partly the confusion between abuse, dependence and addiction. Anyone who needs drugs to manage pain is dependent upon drugs or, as we say, chemically dependent.

Dependency, even with a genuine underlying problem, can be a serious problem due to increased tolerance, side-effects and dangers associated with the medication, preoccupation with the drugs and getting/keeping a supply, cost, interference with daily function etc.

We start talking about addiction when the goal is not restoring normal function but getting "high." Drug-seeking behavior is typical addictive behavior.

In your original post, you offered that you sometimes exceed the prescribed dose. This raises the early-warning sign of "abuse." Abuse can lead to addiction. In other words, someone can be chemically dependent without abusing drugs and some people abuse drugs even though they are not chemically dependent.

I suggest a couple of steps:
1. Determine with your physician or a pain-management specialist whether or not you are on the right drug at the right dose. Compounded drugs like hydrocodone are very dangerous due to the acetaminophen (tylenol) contained in the product. Exceeding the maximum dose, even rarely, can lead to irreversible liver damage. Safer alternatives are available.
2. Assess your function: are you able to do everything you need to do to meet your family and social obligations? If not, see number 1 above.
3. Are your family members or others concerned about the affects of the drugs. Sometimes others see a personality change in us that is hard to detect ourselves. This would be a cause for concern.
4. Be honest with yourself about whether or not you are abusing the drugs or find yourself lying, hiding, minimizing your use. This is not a good place to be and a good reason to seek professional help.

That's my 2 cents for now. I have spent 35 years in the addiction field and often read these boards to research how our treatment system does or does not meet the real needs of real people. Obviously, prescription drug issues are a huge problem and I don't think our field has done a good job helping folks like you assess where they are really at without labeling someone an "addict." Sometimes these terms are loaded (excuse the pun) and do not serve to get at the variety of issues that bring clients to us for help.

Good luck. I hope I have been of some help.

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