Are Chemotherapy Drugs Addictive?

Not many people ask, are Chemotherapy drugs addictive, but we have the answer…

When you are suffering from a cancer diagnosis, whether you have had a drug addiction previously or not, you may find yourself wondering if chemotherapy drugs can be addictive. This is a complicated question for many people struggling with cancer as chemotherapy is often a necessary and potentially life-saving treatment in the fight against cancer. It is important to understand the nuances of addiction and cancer treatments so you can be sure that you are taking the best possible care of all aspects of your health and well-being.

Are Chemotherapy Drugs Addictive?

While this is a simple question to ask, it is not such a simple one to answer. This is because there is no single medication named “chemotherapy,” there are many different combinations of chemicals and drugs that can make up the chemotherapy treatments a person receives. The actual chemotherapy drugs, meaning the drugs that actually work to destroy the cancer cells in the body, are far from addictive. In fact, they cause so many negative side effects like nausea, muscle and body aches, and fatigue that these drugs are basically the opposite of addictive.

What Can Be Addictive During Cancer Treatments?

The actual chemotherapy drugs are not the only medications that you receive when you are going through chemo. Oftentimes, the IV drip you receive also contains steroid medications and other drugs along with it. Depending on a person’s sensitivity to certain medications and their effects, some of these drugs can become somewhat addictive. However, it is very rare that anyone would actually become addicted to their chemotherapy.

Another factor to consider, though, is that when a person goes through cancer treatments like chemotherapy, they are often also prescribed medications to help with their nausea as well as their physical pain. Sometimes, they also receive prescriptions for anxiety or depression that they may develop while going through cancer treatment.

Pain medications like OxyContin, Percocet, and other common painkillers can be quite addictive even when they are prescribed for legitimate pain. Some anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications fall under the category of benzodiazepines (i.e. alprazolam and clonazepam) are also controlled substances that can be addictive. Because of that cancer pain and addiction as well as general substance abuse and cancer can be linked together.

How Can You Navigate Addiction and Cancer Treatments?

Dealing with addiction while you are also going through cancer treatments can be tricky to navigate. Chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy, along with surgeries can cause a great deal of physical pain during cancer treatments, and pain management is an important part of improving comfort and overall well-being during addiction treatment and recovery.

As such, managing an addiction often becomes a secondary issue to the cancer treatment for most people. The problem is that addiction and drug abuse can have major physical consequences that can cause complications with cancer treatments and a person’s general health outcomes. Because of this, navigating the waters of substance abuse and cancer needs to be done with care.

Pain management could potentially be done without narcotic pain medications. A gradual medical detox program performed under the supervision of addiction treatment physicians as well as in consultation with your oncology team can help you to get the pain medication or benzodiazepine out of your system without compromising your cancer treatments or your physical health.

Once you have the drug out of your system, you can begin to heal from your addiction and deal with your cancer-related struggles in therapy while also finding a new and effective means of pain management. This can include other types of pain medication as well as massage therapy and other alternative medicine treatments designed to help reduce pain and increase overall well-being.

Now that you have a better understanding of how cancer pain and addiction can co-occur as well as the treatment options that can help, you can be sure you are always doing what is right for your health.