Chronic Pain and Substance Abuse
Chronic pain, defined as any pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks, affects about 100 million Americans and is the most common reason people go on disability. Because painkillers are usually the most powerful and effective treatment, there’s a strong link between chronic pain and substance abuse. Many people with chronic pain take prescription opioids safely under supervision from doctors. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 21 and 29 percent of patients misuse opioids, and 8 to 12 percent develop a substance use disorder.
Some of the most common types of chronic pain include headaches, back pain, sinus pain, and nerve pain. Chronic pain can be caused by acute injuries or illnesses that take a long time to recover from. They can also be caused by long-term chronic illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, or congenital deformities in the back, spine, or other parts of the body.
Chronic pain can cause sleeping problems, difficulty concentrating, and an overall decrease in quality of life. Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to diagnose the source of chronic pain, so doctors may struggle to find ways to eliminate the pain at the source. Instead, they may focus on pain management, which frequently involves prescription pain medications.
How Chronic Pain Leads to Addiction
Prescription pain relievers can be a powerful treatment, but they can also result in prescription addiction. Opioids, which are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain, can affect emotions and reward regions of the brain. This leads to feelings of relaxation and euphoria that can be extremely addictive.
Over time, your brain may start to associate opioids with a feeling of physical or mental relief. Then, even mild pain could trigger an urge to take pain medication, which can lead to inappropriate and excessive opioid use.
Tolerance is another big problem with chronic pain and substance abuse. After a few weeks or months, your brain might not react as strongly to the pain medication as it once did. You may feel you need stronger doses of the opioid to get the same effects. Many people with addiction started with a prescription opioid but eventually began taking higher doses than their doctor recommended or may even seek out illicit drugs for stronger effects.
Frequently Abused Pain Medications
Opioids are the most commonly abused prescription pain medications. The following are opioids that have a strong potential for addiction:
Opioid medications attach to certain receptors in the brain and block your central nervous system’s perception of pain. They can have a calming, anti-anxiety effect as well. However, opioids can be extremely dangerous when not taken properly, so you should only take them under careful supervision from your doctor. Common side effects include drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. Opioid abuse can lead to muscle pain, irritability, breathing problems, and a number of other issues.
Other Pain Management Options
Opioids can provide relief for many types of severe chronic pain, but there are other pain management options that don’t have such a high risk of addiction. If your doctor has identified the cause of your pain, you may be able to focus on eliminating the source rather than masking the pain. You may be able to accomplish this with physical therapy or with non-addictive medications.
In some cases, people with chronic muscle or nerve pain can receive injections of local anesthetics to relieve the discomfort. Some people also find that complementary therapies like acupuncture and massage can help with chronic pain.
Certain new technologies may be effective for pain relief as well. For example, radiofrequency ablation, which uses an electric current to burn the nerves responsible for the pain, has been shown to provide symptom relief for up to a year. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can provide short-term relief for muscle and nerve pain.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful for managing chronic pain, too. The purpose of CBT is to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors. This can help you achieve better awareness of your pain and address the mental and emotional struggles that often come along with chronic pain.
Treatment for Substance Abuse and Chronic Pain
Many people suffering from chronic pain eventually find themselves seeking treatment for substance abuse disorders. Both inpatient and outpatient programs can help you learn how to manage your chronic pain without resorting to drug use. This usually requires a combination of physical and mental health treatment.
Professionals at SpringBoard Recovery know how to help their clients overcome addiction while reducing their pain. Our trusted and caring staff will work with you to find a recovery plan that fits your individual needs. We will look into ways to help you manage your chronic pain while effectively managing your addiction.
Chronic pain and substance abuse require specialized treatment that focuses on the mind and the body. Choosing an addiction facility like ours that is skilled at working with patients who are struggling with both conditions is beneficial for your recovery. An integrated program helps patients manage their pain while reducing the risk of relapse.
If you’re struggling with chronic pain and addiction, contacting our rehabilitation services can help you recover and restore your quality of life. Contact SpringBoard Recovery today for more information about substance abuse, chronic pain, and treatment options.
- Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-pain
- National Library of Medicine: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14567207/
- MedlinePlus: https://medlineplus.gov/opioidmisuseandaddiction.html
- Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/73936#:~:text=Headaches%20are%20a%20common%20health,physical%2C%20such%20as%20an%20injury
- Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/rheumatoid-arthritis#:~:text=Rheumatoid%20arthritis%20(RA)%20is%20an,will%20probably%20be%20affected%2C%20too.
- Partnership to End Addiction: https://drugfree.org/drugs/prescription-pain-relievers-opioids/
- Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/drug-tolerance
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids
- US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4589923/
- American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/cognitive-behavioral