The human body has over 7 trillion nerves, many designed to recognize physical sensations such as pain. Nociceptive pain, which everyone recognizes, goes off when some outside intrusion triggers physical injury or illness. Unpleasant as it can be, nociceptive pain serves an invaluable purpose by warning when something needs prompt attention. However, nerve pain can be a constant struggle for many Americans, which results in the misuse of Vicodin.
When the Pain Is in the Nerves
Pain in the nerves themselves—neuropathic pain—usually manifests in sensations of burning, tingling, or sharp spasms. The pain may “radiate” from one part of the body to another, or may come and go without warning.
This nerve pain, a signal that a nerve is under too much pressure, has several possible causes. The simplest version is the temporary discomfort that nearly everyone experiences at one time or another, such as the sharp tingling in a foot “waking up” from being “asleep.”
More serious is a “pinched” nerve, which results from surrounding tissues putting too much pressure on a nerve or nerves until the resulting injury can no longer heal itself quickly once the pressure is removed. Sciatica (nerve pain in the lower back and outer leg) and carpal tunnel syndrome are forms of pinched nerve. This form of nerve pain can be temporary (if contributing habits such as extensive sitting are discontinued) or may require medical treatment and physical therapy. When managed properly, a pinched nerve typically heals within a few weeks. If ignored too long, however, it can become a chronic nuisance or even a permanent disability. About 20 percent of chronic-pain cases are due to damaged nerves.
Then there is the nerve pain linked to an underlying health problem—such as diabetes or alcoholism—which must itself be treated if the pain is to be relieved.
Unfortunately, it often happens that sufferers and even doctors focus on treating the symptom rather than the underlying problems: many people’s first thought in the face of nerve pain is to take a painkiller medication. One such medication is Vicodin, which typically comes in tablets containing 300 milligrams of acetaminophen and 5–10 milligrams of hydrocodone, a synthetic opioid. Like all opioid-containing drugs, Vicodin can provide fast pain relief.
And like all carelessly handled prescriptions, it has a high chance of causing new and worse problems. For one thing, Vicodin’s acetaminophen content can damage the liver when taken in large doses. But the more frequent dangers, of course, are the overdose and addiction risks associated with opioids.
About 5 million Americans a year misuse Vicodin or another hydrocodone drug, often by taking extra tablets because the pain doesn’t disappear (or no longer disappears) as quickly as they want. Too much of that will increase the body’s tolerance of and dependence on the drug until the user develops hydrocodone addiction, characterized by frequent drowsiness, sleep problems, anxiety attacks, and a life where everything else takes second priority to the drug. Withdrawal symptoms (runny nose, vomiting, nausea, muscle tremors, aches and pains) can begin as early as six hours after the last dose, and linger as long as several weeks.
And if all that isn’t reason enough to avoid taking Vicodin for chronic nerve pain, recent research indicates that—even without misuse or addiction—opioid prescriptions are of limited long-term value anyway.
Alternatives to Vicodin for Nerve Pain
Fortunately, there are other medications, including anticonvulsants and antidepressants, that are effective in reducing nerve pain and that carry little addiction risk (though it’s never a good idea to abruptly stop a medication without a doctor’s advice). There are also many non-drug options for treating nerve pain.
- Electrical therapy. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and bioelectric therapy direct electric currents through the skin to “massage” the nerves and block pain signals.
- Physical therapy.
- Chiropractic treatment, or related therapies such as acupuncture and massage.
- Low-intensity physical exercise and/or yoga. Most effective when undertaken with the guidance of an instructor who can also offer advice for practicing healthy movement in everyday life.
- Mindfulness techniques. Pain tends to increase when focused on, especially when focused on with anxiety or resentment. Biofeedback, meditation, or visualization can help “reset” the mind to a more relaxed state.
- Anxiety and stress management. Almost any problem lessens in the face of a positive attitude.
While many of these options may seem like a lot of work compared to popping a Vicodin pill, they’re a lot less trouble than detoxing from a Vicodin addiction. And just knowing you’re taking active steps to improve your quality of life will release feel-good brain chemicals for extra pain relief!
Treatment for Vicodin Addiction in Hemet, California
If you already have an addiction to Vicodin—or any other opiate or drug—Hemet Valley Recovery Center can provide you with medical detox and rehab. We offer a comfortable atmosphere with hospital-level care designed for each patient’s individual needs. (As a bonus, our medical center affiliation qualifies us to also treat nerve pain and other comorbid conditions.) To learn more, contact us online or at (855) 614-5548.