What is Pseudoaddiction?

Pseudoaddiction is the idea that a patient who has untreated chronic pain may behave in a way that mimics an addict’s behavior. The term was developed by the pharmaceutical industry in the 1990s to explain what they claimed was an epidemic of drug-seeking behavior caused by untreated pain rather than actual addiction. Companies stated that individuals who were undermedicated for pain may display drug-seeking behavior or physical withdrawal symptoms that look similar to those of an addict.

They may seek illicit substances or higher doses of medication without proper approval. They may also act aggressively, lie, and even deceive for a prescription in order to get what they want. It appears remarkably similar to true addiction, but unlike true addiction, the drug-seeking behaviors of pseudoaddiction cease when pain is appropriately treated and controlled. This shows that a patient suffering from the phenomenon is not truly addicted.

Warning Signs & Symptoms

It is interesting to note that signs and symptoms of pseudoaddiction can closely mimic those of someone suffering from substance abuse. Common symptoms of the disorder can include mental health issues such as feelings of:

  • Anxiety, Fear, or Panic
  • Depression or Apathy
  • Hopelessness
  • Sleep Issues
  • Fatigue
  • Anger

While pseudoaddiction and true addiction can appear to be very similar, it is possible to tell them apart if you at specific symptoms. Common signs of true addiction include:

  • Physical and Mental Dependence on a Substance
  • Withdrawal Symptoms When the Use is Stopped
  • Isolation from Family Members, Friends, or Coworkers because of the Addiction
  • Having Issues with Personal Relationships because of the Substance Abuse
  • Secretive Behavior (ie, Hiding the Substance Abuse or Consuming it in Privacy)
  • Engaging in Increasingly Risky Behavior
  • Having the Substance Become the Focus of Your Daily Life
  • Refusing to Admit or Believe there is an Issue
  • Putting Your Financial Well-Being at Risk in Order to Continue Using

As stated previously, while pseudoaddiction and true addiction are similar, the main difference is the individual’s motivations. Are they seeking opioids for pain relief or for fun? If the pain is properly controlled are they still attempting to obtain medication?

Is Pseudoaddiction True Addiction?

The concept of pseudo-addiction states that pseudoaddiction differs from true addiction based on the individual’s intentions. Patients engaging in abnormal drug-related behaviors because of unrelieved pain are known as pseudoaddicts, and those who engage in the behavior for the feeling they receive are known as addicts. Those with pseudo-addiction look for more pain medication in order to self-treat, whereas those with substance use disorders are driven to drug use for a pleasurable feeling and cannot stop themselves from seeking them. In other words, when a real addict gets a hit, the hunt continues; when a pseudo-addict does not feel pain, the pursuit for pain relief ends.

It’s important to note that while psuedoaddiction is initially distinct from authentic addiction, it could result in true dependency if not adequately treated or controlled. In addition to the increased risk of developing an opioid use disorder, many pain experts are now coming to the conclusion that prescribing higher doses of opioid medications is not necessarily the most effective way to treat acute pain. Addiction and pseudoaddiction both produce very similar symptoms. Physicians must make a judgment about whether patients are seeking opioids for pain or addiction since there is frequently no way to tell them apart.

Some critics also claim that pseudoaddiction actually has a direct correlation to the opioid crisis because the concept essentially advocates for the overprescription of pain medication. It allows for mistakes to be made in dosage in favor of relieving all patients of pain; with the belief that it would be a bigger mistake to cause a patient to go through unneeded pain than it would be to prescribe medication to someone who does not need it.

The Opioid Crisis and its Effect on Prescription Pain Medication

The opioid crisis as we know it began in the 1990s with the widespread release of prescription opioids. Companies, such as the OxyContin distributor Purdue Pharma, employed aggressive marketing tactics, financial incentives, and misleading claims in order to maximize profits. An all-out marketing campaign was touted as a mission to save millions of Americans from suffering through a life of severe pain. If a doctor didn’t prescribe medication to relieve a patient’s pain, they were failing in their oath to do no harm. Many clinicians began to believe that there was a growing epidemic of untreated pain in America and that to address it properly, they must prescribe ever-increasing doses of pain-relieving drugs.

It’s no wonder that in recent years, prescription opioids have become the drug of choice for pain treatment in America. Physicians’ fears of opioids causing or contributing to addiction have diminished as a result of their increased popularity. Drug companies made claims that a higher dose of prescription drugs could actually lower the risk factor for addiction. This financially driven, purposeful misinformation has led to a severe escalation in the misuse of opiates and opioid overdose deaths. More than 500,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses, both legal and illegal, over the past two decades.

The opioid epidemic has made it difficult for healthcare providers to accurately determine a patient’s motives when it comes to pain management when prescribing medication. Is the patient simply seeking pain relief or are they in the active stages of drug addiction? An unfortunate side-effect of the prescription opioid epidemic is that patients with under-treated pain that could be relieved with opioid painkillers are often overlooked or ignored because of the drug-seeking behaviors they display.

While this oversight is unfortunate, it is a hard decision for many healthcare professionals to make. Pseudoaddiction is built from the belief that opioids are the best approach to managing long-term pain. This is not always the case. Terminal patients may benefit from opioids for pain management, but those with chronic pain or postoperative pain may be better served with a different approach.

This is why it’s important to consult a professional if you are concerned about your or a loved one’s use of opioids. Knoxville Recovery Center is here to help you differentiate between addiction and pseudoaddiction and to provide you with the best treatment possible if you are struggling with a substance use disorder.

Finding Help for Pseudoaddiction

Knoxville Recovery Center provides a variety of services for those struggling with addiction or mental health issues. You don’t need to suffer alone. Reach out today for help. We offer a variety of treatments to help with alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and mental health disorders including:

Detox – Our on-site detox clinic ensures that clients remain safe and comfortable as the body eliminates all residual traces of addictive substances. Medical supervision ensures that clients remain safe and comfortable throughout the detox process.

Addiction Treatment – Prior to leaving our facility, clients participating in our addiction treatment program will engage in introductory therapies and exercises to prepare them for continued, more intensive treatment. Our program is designed to stabilize clients so that they are ready for further treatment.

Mental Health Treatment – Our mental health treatment program offers a variety of behavioral therapies based on self-expression and holistic exercise. Art therapy, music therapy, and yoga are just a few of the therapies we offer at the center. We want to help clients express themselves and receive treatment in a safe and professional facility.

Aftercare Treatment – Aftercare is a more intensive addiction treatment program that individuals who have benefited from our introductory addiction services can transition to. Once our clients are stable, they will be encouraged to continue seeking addiction treatment. Our case managers will then act as intermediaries to match them with a program that addresses their unique needs and desires.

Our specialists are standing by and ready to help if you or a loved one is struggling and in need of assistance. Contact the Knoxville Recovery Center right now to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our experts.

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