Opiate addiction is a growing problem in the United States. WebMD explains, “Emergency room visits resulting from the abuse of painkillers alone has gone up 163% since 1995…More people are abusing the drugs because more people are receiving prescriptions for them.” As opiate abuse is such a large and growing problem, you may wonder if you are at risk for addiction before or after plastic surgery, or you may wonder how you or a loved one can move forward after becoming addicted to opiates following a medical procedure. You can manage pain without addiction, and you can find hope and help for a healthy, opiate-free life.
How Is Opiate Abuse Related to Surgery?
Opiates are frequently prescribed following surgery. Many medical and cosmetic procedures do involve pain and discomfort immediately after, as the body has undergone physical trauma. Pain is part of physical healing, but that does not mean you should or will be in extreme pain after plastic surgery. Pain management is also an important part of recovery. The Cleveland Clinic explains that managing pain after surgery is important for several reasons. Managing pain does more than allow for greater patient comfort; “Pain control can help speed your recovery and may reduce your risk of developing certain complications after surgery, such as pneumonia and blood clots. If your pain is well controlled, you will be better able to complete important tasks, such as walking and deep breathing exercises.” Pain management allows for physical rehab and exercises that will ultimately reduce pain naturally, and pain management helps patients avoid complications. For these reasons doctors frequently prescribe opiates. Opiates are powerful, addictive drugs, but despite the inherent risks of use, they are often preferred over over-the-counter products like aspirin or ibuprofen. Health Day explains that patients, “often are told to not use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs because they can thin the blood and cause suture bleeding.” Opiates may be safer on one level, but poorly managed or unsupervised opiate use is grounds for addiction. For this reason doctors often prescribe opiates even if pain levels are not extreme, but they should do so warily. A good doctor insists on communication about pain and pain management and should be regularly checking in on your progress. The Cleveland Clinic explains, “After surgery, you will be assessed frequently to ensure that you are comfortable and safe. When necessary, adjustments or changes to your pain management regimen will be made.” These adjustments should involve a reduction in opiate dosage, not an increase, although the effective of opiates wanes quickly due to tolerance. When choosing a plastic surgeon, make sure aftercare is part of the complete procedure and that she or he offers alternative pain management methods such as certain exercises and relaxing practices that do not involve opiates. A doctor who does not offer and insist on follow-up meetings and reassessments of healing and pain management is not offering responsible care or doing all she or he can to keep you safe from infection, addiction, pain and more.
Body Image and Addiction
When you undergo any medical procedure that involves pain and opiate pain management, you are at risk for addiction. Opiates are powerfully addictive on a physical level, and any use comes with the potential for abuse and addiction. When you undergo a cosmetic surgery procedure, you may be at additional risk because of the psychological factors involved. Body image issues put individuals at greater risk for addiction to begin with. For example Today’s Dietitian explains, “Individuals with eating disorders experience higher rates of substance abuse than do those in the general population, and those who binge and purge are more likely than restricting anorexics to engage in substance abuse.” Eating disorders and plastic surgery aren’t necessarily related, but there is a relationship between how people view themselves and their bodies and their addiction risk. One reason those with eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder or any mental health concerns related to body image may be more likely to abuse opiates before or after surgery is that according to Today’s Dietitian risk factors for addiction include the following:
- The sense of being at war with one’s own body
- Low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, or impulsivity
- Unhealthy peer norms and social pressures
- Susceptibility to messages from advertising and entertainment media
If you are considering or have undergone plastic surgery, you may have experienced many or all of these feelings and pressures. Plastic surgery is not a solution to underlying emotions, and you may find opiates provide a false sense of security if surgery does not. When emotional relief or ease is coupled with easy access through a prescription and the feeling that opiates are necessary for pain management, continued or increased opiate use long after surgery can appear to be a good thing rather than the path to greater pain, dissatisfaction and emotional turmoil that it is.
Pain Management, Emotional Healing and Opiate Addiction Recovery
You can manage pain and find emotional balance and satisfaction without relying on opiates. You can find true healing for yourself or a loved one, or you can take steps to prevent opiate abuse or addiction before it starts. Call our helpline and talk with a caring, confidential admissions coordinator to learn about your options. We are here for you 24 hours a day, and all conversations are free, no pressure, and confidential. We are here to help and to connect you to invaluable resources for rehab and recovery.
 http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/features/back-pain-medication-addiction-feature. “Back Pain: Medication and Addiction.” WebMD. 2004. Web. 26 Apr 2016.
 https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments_and_procedures/hic_Pain_Control_after_Surgery. “What You Need to Know About Pain Control After Surgery.” Cleveland Clinic. 1 Dec 2015. Web. 26 Apr 2016.
 http://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutritional-information-27/obesity-health-news-505/weight-loss-surgery-may-add-to-painkiller-dependence-study-says-680711.html. “Weight-Loss Surgery May Add to Painkiller Dependence, Study Says.” Health Day. 1 Oct 2013. Web. 26 Apr 2016.
 http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/092208p72.shtml. “Insatiable Hungers: Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse.” Today’s Dietitian. Oct 2008. Web. 26 Apr 2016.