Addiction Helpline and Resource Center

Cancer and Prescription Drug Abuse

Cancer and Prescription Drug AbuseCancer patients are typically prescribed opioid medications to treat pain. Opioid therapy to treat pain began with cancer patients with terminal diagnoses. It was only later that doctors began prescribing opioids to non-terminal patients for conditions other than cancer, but only on a short-term basis, as any use of opioids for longer than a few weeks carries a high risk of dependency. However, treatment is available to help people deal with both problems simultaneously.

Cancer and Opioid Addiction

While the treatment of pain in a cancer patient is absolutely critical, and while opioids generally provide the most effective pain relief, any long-term use of opioids is likely to lead to addiction. In addition to the propensity for addiction that is naturally associated with opioids, the overwhelming emotions that come from dealing with cancer can easily entice a person to seek escape in opioid use. It is easy for cancer patients to take excessive doses of pain medication, especially when they have a ready supply provided by their doctor. This can put an even greater burden on someone who is struggling through her greatest trial. In addition to the ordeal of cancer and chemotherapy, along with the emotional toll that cancer takes, the patient must now cope with the burden of opioid addiction.

There is also an issue that arises when someone with a prior history of opiate addiction is diagnosed with cancer. This presents a dilemma to the treating physician. Opioid pain medications are contraindicated for those with a history of drug abuse or addiction, and doctors are reluctant to prescribe opioids to such patients; generally they try to find alternatives to opioids. However, no other pain medications are as effective as opioids. At this point most physicians will accept the fact that, especially with a terminal patient, the relief of the patient’s pain takes priority, regardless of a past history of abuse or addiction.

Support for Cancer Patients Addicted to Opioid Pain Medication

If you or someone you know is a cancer patient struggling with addiction as a result of opioid therapy, call us. Our staff can help you find resources to assist you in coping with your addiction, and we can help you find support to help you through this difficult experience. Our helpline is toll free, and we are available 24 hours a day. Call us today to get the support you need.

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