The Addictions Coach: Drug Addiction in Cancer Patients


Imagine this scenario. Life is moving along completely normal and then you are blindsided with a cancer diagnosis. Your first thought is “Oh my God, I’m gonna die!” You might go through a period of weeks waking up and going to sleep thinking you were going to die. Then the roller coaster of life takes an “upswing” and you are told that you have a puncher’s chance with treatment but that during this treatment you will experience a high amount of PAIN. To get you through these painful periods and painful treatments your doctor offers you opioid pain pills to help with this pain. Feeling that this is possibly your only option, you accept these pills and begin taking them. Now this is where a cruel twist of fate could come your way.

Imagine that after a few months the doctor walks in and tells you the great news that your cancer is in remission and almost gone. You are going to live….or are you? As soon as that last pain pill has been taken, you are physically in for the ride of your life. About 12 hours after that last pill your body is going to go into full detox. Now for a weakened cancer patient the detox alone could kill you. And for those of us that are weaker in other ways, whether we know it or not, we have now developed a life long drug addiction to opiates.

Up until a few years ago, cancer patients weren’t considered at risk to develop an opiate addiction because their life expectancy wasn’t long enough to worry about an addiction. But now, because of better heath care, cancer patients are living much longer and are now developing full on opiate addictions. Some studies show as high as 70-80% of those who go through opioid pain management will develop an addiction.

Doctors are complaining that we aren’t doing enough to screen cancer patients and not only screen them but the people in their household. Grandchildren are stealing their grandparents pills. It’s getting bad. Patients are asking if they can become addicted even if they take the recommended dose and the answer is HELL YES, YOU CAN AND YOU WILL!!

This is a true “catch 22” because there is no way a person struggling with the pain that cancer causes should do it without some type of pain management. But we must have support in place when the person is returned home and their bodies have become physically dependent on these drugs. Because if not, we all know the routine well. Once the doctor cuts off the pill supply heroin is right around the corner for those who can’t make it through the withdrawals. So if you are a recovering cancer patient who has become dependent on opiates please call us here The Addictions Coach at 1.800.706.0318