Chronic Pain and Opioid Addiction
What affects more lives than heart disease and diabetes combined? You probably guessed cancer, but it is, in fact, chronic pain. Chronic pain affects 133 million Americans and 65% of all Americans will seek care for chronic pain at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, chronic pain and opioid addiction go hand in hand. Nobody takes these pills with the intention of getting addicted, but societal pressure to perform at our best and get back to ‘normal’ pushes us beyond our boundaries sometimes.
Everybody has an ache or pain at some point, but what makes pain chronic is the duration of the pain. If your pain lasts more than 90 days, then it is considered chronic. The nervous system in the brain actually changes after that time period and your brain becomes hardwired for that pain. That’s when doctors usually prescribe pain pills. These pills, commonly called opioids are meant for short-term pain relief. This means that the longer you use these pills, the more likely an opioid addiction is going to occur.
Chronic Pain is Not Solely Physical Pain
Pain is subjective. The scale commonly used by doctors to ‘rate the pain’ is a simple 1-10 scale. One person’s 3 may be your 7, so it’s easy to sit back and say “Well, I recovered from my knee surgery by this time, so why are you still in pain? It can’t be that bad. You don't need those pills.” This common reaction often has the opposite of the intended effect, causing users to hide their pill usage and put on a ‘mask’ of a fully recovered person. As a result, social isolation can lead to mental health concerns that only further the need for the chemical release opioids provide.
As the brain rewires itself to that level of pain relief and that stimulus of the high pain, you become dependent on the opioids to treat your pain. Otherwise, your brain can begin to panic which leads to withdrawals and unhealthy behavior like isolating yourself.
Losing Interest in Things
The activities that you and your friends once loved can no longer be as enjoyable. Sometimes individuals, especially young people, feel the need to always be as happy or as active as they once were so something like a car accident or a surgery that derails their trajectory for a moment can have devastating long-term emotional effects. Young people are more likely to use opioids in the short term for chronic pain after a surgery or an accident. So, while they can trace the root of their pain to a specific instance, the societal pressure to get back to ‘normal’ as quickly as possible can cause an undue mental burden on the young person and force their recovery efforts into hiding. This hidden habit can quickly become an addiction.
Chronic pain is more than just a nagging annoyance. It affects you mentally, socially, and physically. The effects really are far-reaching. So, if you know someone who says they have chronic pain, don’t underestimate their pain because it is ‘invisible’ or because sometimes they seem ‘okay’. Chronic pain often opens the door for psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety, forcing people to alienate themselves, thus worsening the condition and making addiction even more likely. Substance abuse and mental health issues are linked and sometimes codependent, so treating both is crucial for success.
When to Seek Help for Opioid Addiction
At Springboard Recovery, your entire well-being is at the forefront of our addiction recovery. By taking a holistic approach that is influenced by the 12 Steps and complementing it with a variety of services like cognitive behavioral therapy, we ensure that your overall health is being addressed comprehensively. Our specialists are well-equipped to treat chronic pain and opioid addiction, making our facility one of the safest places you can be throughout your recovery.
If you or someone you love is suffering from opioid addiction as a result of chronic pain, let our expert staff take care of your whole recovery and get you back to the person you were before the pain.