An integral part of many cancers is pain. While some cancer patients are fortunate enough not to deal with pain, many patients have daily pain related to the disease process or the treatment. Many cancerous tumors are large enough to press on surrounding organs; other cancers require chemotherapy, radiation, surgery or a combination of these for successful treatment. These treatments often come with pain as they kill or remove cancerous cells. Narcotics are frequently prescribed by physicians in cancer centers for their effectiveness at controlling the major pain associated with cancer. Frequently, morphine or oxycodone is used.
Understanding the Process of Drug Addiction
To understand how this is not a problem, one must understand the difference between dependence and addiction. Most cancer patients who are on narcotics for longer than a week or two will find that they do become dependent on the drugs. This means that their body becomes used to taking them and requires a continuation of them. Addiction, on the other hand, is defined as compulsive drug use even though someone knows that the drug is dangerous and unnecessary. Cancer doctors will taper patients off the narcotic slowly to avoid distressing withdrawal symptoms. Nearly all patients will be able to stop taking narcotics successfully within a few weeks.
Cancer patients with prior addictions will require extra care should they require narcotics during treatments. Physicians will often refer these patients to other ancillary care providers to ensure that an addiction does not occur. For example, a social worker or psychiatrist may become involved. Additionally, some patients may even be referred to a drug rehabilitation facility, such as First Step Recovery Center, where behavioral therapy can help them cope with their situations and remain addiction-free.