What is Pseudoaddiction?

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For individuals who suffer from chronic pain conditions, like fibromyalgia or nerve disorders, pain management protocols may not go far enough to effectively manage their conditions. However, with the prevalence of prescription medication addiction across the nation, doctors are more and more reluctant to prescribe strong narcotics to treat medical conditions resulting in some individuals developing a pseudoaddiction. So what is a psuedoaddiction and what does it mean for addiction treatment?

What is Pseudoaddiction?

Pseudoaddiction is a medical condition that can afflict some people with chronic painful conditions. The condition was first discovered in 1989, and is often experienced by those with painful conditions that are not being fully treated. 

The condition occurs someone who needs relief from a legitimate painful medical condition is not receiving the treatment they need or require. As a result, the individual will look for ways to self-medicate. This type of drug-seeking behavior often looks like other forms of addiction.  

What is the Difference Between Pseudoaddiction and Addiction?

When considering the difference between a pseudoaddiction and addiction, it’s helpful to know what is pseudoaddiction. Often there is no distinguishable difference between the outward symptoms of addiction and someone who is seeking pain relief for legitimate reasons. As a result, doctors and addiction treatment professionals err on the side of caution and treat both conditions the same.

How is Pseudoaddiction Diagnosed?

A diagnosis of pseudoaddiction can be difficult to confirm due to the similarities between the behaviors one exhibits when they have an addiction and when they are trying to get treatment for chronic pain. For example, someone with a disorder like fibromyalgia may see their doctor in order to get medication for chronic flares. The doctor must evaluate the patient and make a diagnosis. Sometimes, they can perform various tests or do blood work. Other times tests and blood work may not indicate anything is wrong. 

Furthermore, if someone is suffering from pseudoaddiction, they often complain when their dosage does not address their pain. However, someone with an opioid addiction will also make the same complaint. Due to the similarities in behaviors between the two, it can be rather difficult to determine when someone actually needs opioids for pain relief and when they are only seeking them to fuel their addiction. 

However, even though pseudoaddiction mimics many of the behaviors of addiction, once the person’s painful chronic condition is being properly managed and controlled, the behaviors associated with pseudoaddiction stop. Often the only way to confirm what is pseudoaddiction over addiction is to develop an effective pain management treatment for the individual and see if the drug-seeking behaviors go away. 

Signs and Symptoms of Pseudoaddiction

Both pseudoaddiction and addiction have similar signs and symptoms that could include:

  • Withdrawal – When the pain relievers begin to wear off, the person can exhibit common withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches, body aches, nausea, vomiting, etc. 
  • Risk-Taking Behaviors – Drug-seeking behaviors can result in taking risks like stealing, driving under the influence, or exchanging sex for drugs or money.
  • Denial – Most people with pseudoaddiction will deny they have a problem. 
  • Drug Dependence – The person will not be able to function “normally” without using the substance since it relieves their pain.
  • Isolation – People with pseudoaddiction will start to isolate themselves to either hide their drug dependence or discontinue relationships with others who question their drug dependence. 
  • Drug Obsession – An excessive amount of energy and time will be spent seeking pain relievers while ignoring other responsibilities. 
  • Financial Struggles – Drug-seeking behaviors often lead to financial struggles where one is spending all their money on pain relievers. 

Someone with pseudoaddiction can also start to experience emotional and mental health issues since their pain is not being managed properly. 

How Is Pseudoaddiction Treated?

When someone is suffering from pseudoaddiction, they are actively seeking opioids or other substances to manage their painful condition. One way to treat pseudoaddiction is to develop a more effective pain management plan to see if the addictive behaviors stop. 

Another treatment option is to seek substance abuse treatment, especially if the drug-seeking behaviors have led to opioid abuse. The objective of rehab treatment for someone with pseudoaddiction is to help them address their behaviors while determining whether they have an addiction or if their painful condition was not properly being managed.

In some cases, the individual may suffer from mental health conditions, such as:

Co-occurring mental health treatment is also incorporated into an effective treatment plan for treating pseudoaddiction. 

Alternative Pain Management Options

Another way to address pseudoaddiction is to use alternative methods to manage pain, rather than prescribe medication. There are several viable alternative pain management options for those suffering from chronic pain. For example, there are various pain relievers that are non-addictive and mimic the effects of opioids that could be an effective treatment option. 

Addiction Treatment in Redondo Beach, CA

For the outside observer, the signs and symptoms of pseudoaddiction are often mistaken for addiction. Our addiction specialists can help you determine whether you have a pseudoaddiction or substance abuse problem and help develop an effective treatment program to address your condition. 

For further information about addiction treatment in Redondo Beach, CA, please feel free to contact Clear Behavioral Health by calling 877-799-1985 today! 

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