When you hear about someone having an addiction, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Smoking? Alcohol? Sex? Drugs? It’s true that more and more people are becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs, especially opioids. But while we might know what an addiction is, have you ever heard about pseudo-addiction?

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What is pseudo-addiction?

Before we set out what pseudo-addiction is, let’s be clear about what real addiction is, as this term can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Addiction “is a primary, chronic, neurobiological disease, with genetic, psychosocial and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. It is characterized by behaviors that include one or more of the following: impaired control over drug use, compulsive use, continued use despite harm and craving”.

In contrast, pseudo-addiction is quite a new concept developed by pain specialists in the 1990s to describe desperate drug-seeking that is caused not by true drug addiction, but by the undertreatment of pain. In other words, the conduct of patients showing pseudo-addiction imitates the behaviour of an addicted person. A person with unrelieved pain, i.e., one who is undertreated, might present physical signs and symptoms which may seem like drug-seeking behavior or physical withdrawal. They may try to increase their dose illegally by getting the drugs without approval or turn to street drugs. They also might complain, act aggressively and even lie to get another prescription. The fact is pseudo-addiction looks a lot like addiction – but it is not. When pain is properly controlled and effectively treated, these drug-seeking behaviors stop, hence confirming pseudoaddiction rather than true addiction.

What is the difference between addiction and pseudo-addiction?

When talking about addiction and pseudo-addcition, we should consider what an important role pain plays in this case. If you have ever experienced pain which made your life miserable, then you know the desire for pain relief. If you are still struggling with it, you need to get professional help to treat the underlying source of pain, which you can find at our pain clinic in Brooksville.

The reason why we need to distinguish pain patients from addicts in our pain clinic in Brooksville is the fact that both may be dependent on opioids; however, addicts show abnormal drug-seeking behavior, plus an obsession with drugs. Legitimate pain patients who behave like addicts strive to get more drugs when their supply is inadequate to treat their pain. Once their supply is sufficient, the bad behavior ceases.

What are the most noticeable differences between addiction and pseudo-addiction? The main factor which separates addiction from pseudo-addiction is the reason for the drug-seeking.  An individual with signs of pseudo-addiction hunts for more pain medication for self-care. An addicted person, meanwhile, cannot control his or her need for the drug and is destroyed by chasing the feel-good effect of the drugs. To put it another way, when a real addict gets a hit, the chase continues; when a pseudo-addict feels no pain, they stop chasing pain relief.

What are the signs and symptoms of addiction and pseudo-addiction?

We must be aware of dangers of both addiction and pseudo-addiction. The more we know about these terms, the more we can understand those who are struggling with addiction. But remember, knowledge is not enough to help addicts recover; our Detox Clinic in Brooksville is for that. What does our clinic look for as signs and symptoms of addiction?

  • Substance dependence: No matter what sort of addiction it is – nicotine, alcohol or drugs –  you are out of control and not able to stop taking the substance, even if it is causing harm to your body. The strong desire to continue taking it is very difficult to stop and quit without help.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: These symptoms are easy to notice as an addict is not able to hide them. When the effects of the substance wear off, then patient has physical and mood-related symptoms such as frustration, anger, bad temper, poor concentration, feeling of depression and emptiness, and mood swings. It may be accompanied by insomnia or an increased appetite; for some substances, withdrawal also includes trembling, seizures, hallucinations and sweating, and possibly violence.
  • Isolation: There are two types of isolation we look for. The first one relates to the sacrifice of one’s social life or recreational activities because of an addiction to something. The other is whether the substance is being consumed alone and in secret.
  • Taking risks: Risk-taking behavior increases dramatically when it comes to drug-seeking, in particular by stealing or trading sex for money/drugs. In other situations, risk-taking behavior manifests as driving or working under the influence, which can lead to problems with the justice system.
  • Obsession: This is defined as spending excessive time and energy coming up with ways to obtain a substance and use it.
  • Denial: Most addicts refuse to acknowledge that they have an issue or they are not aware of it.
  • Financial difficulties: People who are addicted do not care about the cost of the next fix, even if it is expensive and could cost them their house, their car, or other belongings.
  • Relationship problems: In connection to many of the signs above, addicts also often have trouble in their relationships as a result of either the denial of the addiction or their embrace of it.

The interesting thing about signs and symptoms of pseudo-addiction is they might resemble the features of addiction. They include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Mood swings
  • Panic or fear
  • Hopelessness
  • Frustration or anger
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nervousness

A person with pseudo-addiction may start to experience increased physical, mental, and emotional side effects as the result of mismanaged pain. As a next step, they are asking for increased dosages of drugs, requesting a different or stronger pain medication, worrying about refilling their prescription on time, and becoming consumed by thoughts of the next dose, the medication or its effect. What matters for these individuals is to make sure they always have enough medication, even if they don’t expect to need it.

We have to agree that these signs of pseudo-addiction are easily mistaken by the outside observer as addiction. Our specialists in addictions and detox in Brooksville and Spring Hill not only diagnose your problem properly, but get to the root cause, explore your medical history, and select the best methods to cure it.

If you need help contact our professional, experienced staff

In our detox clinic in Brooksville, you will find the best medical specialists in the area of addiction. Dr. Eyad Alsabbagh, an Interventional Pain Management Physician, is experienced in the field of pain management and addiction, so he knows exactly what patients’ needs and expectations are. To get the best possible care you can find, we encourage you to make the right decision and admit yourself to our detox clinic in Spring Hill and Brooksville. With help from our doctor, you will get back on your feet in no time.

(Sources: American Society of Addiction Medicine


Medical News Today )