Since our inception in March 2018 we have been highlighting the difference between “DEPENDENCE” and not “ADDICTION” to prescribed medication.
There is a difference
Patients did not make the choice to become dependent on prescribed medication – they followed the advice of their medical professionals to arrive at the point where they are dependent on medication – without being given an informed choice on how its impact would affect the brain and body, and how difficult and sometimes dangerous it is to discontinue taking these medications.
Addiction—or compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences—is characterized by an inability to stop using a drug; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and, sometimes (depending on the drug), tolerance and withdrawal. The latter reflect physical dependence in which the body adapts to the drug, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect (tolerance) and eliciting drug-specific physical or mental symptoms if drug use is abruptly ceased (withdrawal).
Physical dependence can happen with the chronic use of many drugs—including many prescription drugs, even if taken as instructed. Thus, physical dependence in and of itself does not constitute addiction, but it often accompanies addiction. This distinction can be difficult to discern, particularly with prescribed pain medications, for which the need for increasing dosages can represent tolerance or a worsening underlying problem, as opposed to the beginning of abuse or addiction.(https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/there-difference-between-physical-dependence)
Informed consent is the process by which the treating health care provider discloses appropriate information to a competent patient so that the patient may make a voluntary choice to accept or refuse treatment.
It originates from the legal and ethical right the patient has to direct what happens to his or her body and from the ethical duty of the physician to involve the patient in his or her health care.
The media adore using the sensationalist term “addiction” though to most of us who have lived experience of medication dependency it is an abhorrent term which gives the public the wrong impression of the damage caused by prescribed medicines.
Addicts make an initial informed choice to take a drug – dependent patients have merely followed medical treatment guidelines.
The perception of the public of the impact of medications is nebulous at best – to park the term “addict” on a vulnerable patient is a heinous issue, individuals struggling to live with conditions, to add the label of “addict” is extremely dangerous and could even be fatal.
A client was dubbed an “addict” by family and friends for medication dependence, it caused great trauma and reduced their self esteem to pieces. She felt alienated and indeed more suicidal.
After a lengthy discussion with the person with regard to the issue they did feel better as it was not their fault – she had only followed doctors orders and had become dependent, very different to an “addict” who begins a journey with an informed choice.