Saturday, March 20, 2010

More honesty about psychological dependence

As we grow up, we find heroes to inspire us. Some are "local" people we come to admire and respect. The majority will be idolised from a distance. Perhaps the most common groups are sporting figures and musicians. What's not to admire about excellence at a national or international level of achievement? Whatever the sport, there are the current stars and those inducted into the Hall of Fame. It's the same for the latest singing sensations and those old-in-the-tooth bands that people can't seem to forget.

Somehow, the entertainment industry has managed to be more open about its drug problems. Despite the best efforts of the PR people and the agents to the stars, the gossip has usually identified who is checking into rehab and who has just been busted for possession. In some instances, these brushes with the law are part of the mystique, giving the stars more street-cred. But sport has had more of a problem with openness. Fans are more forgiving of drug abuse by a singer or band. Once the same allegation is made about a sportsperson, the specter of cheating is raised. You only have to think BALCO and famous names in different sports are implicated. Should medals be returned? Should their records stand in the history books?

One of the sports where injuries are more common is professional wrestling and it's been interesting to watch the honesty with which Rey Mysterio has tackled the problems of painkillers. As a former champion, he was suspended for breaching the WWE's Wellness Policy. In his autobiography, he now frankly admits going through rehab. Put simply, after years of injuries and surgery to repair damaged joints, ligaments and muscles, it should not be surprising he became dependent on painkillers. He's a human being who needs to get on with his working life and earn a living. He's no different to every other working stiff who takes a few pills to get the job done. Unfortunately, like millions of others, he ended up with dependence. Let's be clear what this means. If you are in pain, taking a tablet to make the pain go away gives you relief and relaxation. As the effect of the tablet wears off, the pain returns. This encourages a cycle of taking the tablets to avoid the pain. Although it's not the same a taking a drug to get high, the end result is the same. We become dependent on the tablet.

Dependence on legal drugs is increasingly common and even though tramadol is not addictive in the same sense as street drugs, relief from pain is addictive. Like Mysterio, it's all too easy to start taking a painkiller immediately after surgery or an illness, and then just continue. The drugs are an important part of getting better. They can also become a continuing expense to add into the family budget. The longer they are taken, the greater the risk of adverse side effects. So when you are unlucky to be injured or fall ill, it's alright to include tramadol in the treatment to relieve moderate to severe pain. But, sooner or later, you should learn to live without the tablets. Habits are hard to break. It's better not to get the habit of taking any painkiller.


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