A cancer diagnosis can be many things all at once. It can be frightening. It can be overwhelming. It can be devastating. As if that weren’t enough, there are plenty of additional complications that can accompany the diagnosis. In particular, many cancer patients are especially susceptible to problems with substance abuse.
It’s important to be able to identify the signs and symptoms and take immediate steps towards care before a substance abuse issue worsens a cancer diagnosis.
Common Substance Abuse Symptoms
Frequently, cancer patients are prescribed opioid painkillers to manage cancer-related pain symptoms. It’s well-known that opioids are highly addictive and are easily abused. Any individual that is receiving opioids to handle their pain symptoms should be regularly monitored, especially if the medication is a result of a cancer diagnosis.
If the pain is chronic and persistent, it becomes tempting for patients to take more than the recommended amount of their medication to mitigate their symptoms. Understanding some of the telltale signs of opioid abuse can help nip the problem in the bud.
Individuals who are abusing opioids will experience, first and foremost, incredibly pressing cravings. If you find yourself unable to stop using the medication for any reason or have difficulty sticking to the recommended amount, you may be dealing with substance abuse problems. There are several other common symptoms that include poor coordination, slurred speech, mood swings, feelings of euphoria or depression, and a noticeable lack of coordination.
There’s also a strong risk of opioid overdose in cases of substance abuse and these require immediate medical attention. Typical overdose symptoms include unresponsiveness, slow breathing or pulse, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, it’s incredibly important that you contact emergency services.
If you’ve identified traits of substance abuse in a cancer patient, it’s important that you start taking steps to handle the existing problem and prevent further issues.
Handling Substance Abuse Issues
One of the most common approaches is rehabilitation. While this may seem overwhelming in the face of an existing cancer diagnosis, it’s important to be able to mitigate medication dependency. Looking up available local services such as Canadian addiction rehab can be a powerful first step in reclaiming sobriety from medications. If staying at a rehabilitation facility isn’t feasible, there are other steps you can take to overcome issues with substance abuse or even prevent the possibility of them happening in the first place.
For cancer patients, there are a number of groundbreaking clinical trials that are using different medications and therapies to not only combat the disease but also its symptoms. This can mean relying on a course of treatment that doesn’t include opioid painkillers or addictive medications. It’s important to do adequate research before applying to any clinical treatments to make sure that you qualify.
If you’re struggling to find the right types of clinical trials, it’s also worth your time to talk to both your primary care physician or your cancer care coordinator or specialist. They may be better informed as to the types of trials that are available as well as helping you find one for which you may qualify.
One Step At A Time
When you’re dealing with a cancer diagnosis, your first priority needs to be your health and wellness. If substance abuse is adversely impacting your prognosis or is interfering with your treatment, it’s important to seek help right away. The sooner you do so, the sooner you can get back on the path towards wellness and healing. Your cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to stop your life in its tracks and neither does a substance problem.