The Relationship Between Opioids and Chronic Pain
Opioid addiction and chronic pain have a closer relationship than many may realize. An estimated 20% of all Americans live with chronic pain! In more acute cases, prescription opioids are used to treat them. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has released statistics that roughly 1-in-4 prescription painkiller users end up abusing their medication, and that one-in-ten can develop a dependence on opioids.
Opioid addiction is a fast-growing crisis in the country. To help combat it, we need to understand that relationship and strategies for pain management without drugs that we can use instead. Opioids are highly addictive both physically and mentally, especially when they’re seemingly reliable in offering temporary relief from pain.
About Chronic Pain
Chronic pain affects many of us and is caused by a variety of issues, including acute injuries (like a sprained wrist), acute illnesses (like infections), chronic illnesses (such as fibromyalgia), musculoskeletal deformities and even nervous system problems that change how our brain handles pain signals.
In many cases, it can be hard or even impossible to find the cause of chronic pain. There are many causes of joint pain, back pain, headaches, nerve pains, and such. If it has no known cause, this is known as idiopathic chronic pain.
What’s more, every person can experience chronic pain slightly differently from one another. Since there is such a wide range of causes, there is also a wide range of symptoms. One person may experience chronic pain constantly, while it may come and go for someone else. It may be a dull annoyance for one, while severe and even debilitating for another. It can change in sensation, too, from aches to shooting pains, burning to shocking sensations, or something else still.
The knock-on effects of chronic pain can just as destructive to the quality of life as the chronic pain itself. Issues associated with chronic pain include:
- Sleep disorders like insomnia
- Appetite changes
- More frequent illness as a result of a weakened immune system
As such, a well-rounded path of treatment is essential for treating not just the pain itself, but the issues that can also arise as a result of chronic pain.
The Relationship Between Opioid Addiction and Chronic Pain
Why do many people with chronic end up developing a dependence on opioids? It is not a fact of life that one leads to the other. Indeed, doctors are becoming more careful about prescribing opioids to treat pain. Even if they do, responsible and monitored use can decrease the chances of developing an addiction.
The effectiveness of opioids as painkillers is indisputable. Managing your pain can help not only provide physical relief, but also tackle the issues like mental health changes and sleep disorders that arise as a result of it. As such, opioids are used to provide a better quality of life for many. The medication that might be prescribed includes the following:
As mentioned, there are indeed non-opioid treatments available, which we will cover further. When it comes to developing an opioid addiction, however, these medications are commonly the instigating factors. As mentioned, the responsible use of opioids is possible. However, to achieve that, it’s essential to communicate frequently and honestly with your doctor about how your pain responds, about side effects, about any alterations you have to your dosage, and so on.
The reason that it’s so important to manage opioid use carefully is that it is easy for prescription use to turn into an opioid addiction. For one, our body may acclimate to the medication with prolonged use. As we continue using it, it may not offer the relief it once did, which means we may be tempted to increase our dosage tor to look for stronger opioids. As a naturally addictive substance, opioids also lead to cravings and we may experience unpleasant side effects when we haven’t taken them in some time.
Not all opioid addictions begin as a result of a prescription, either. Those who may not have access to a doctor or who find current pain management isn’t working may look to otherwise acquire opioids for self-medication for pain, as well as other substances to treat the sleep disorders or mood issues they might be having. This is even more dangerous, as you can never be certain what, exactly, you are taking when it comes to street drugs and one of the most common, heroin, is especially addictive.
Chronic Pain Management Without Drugs
Opioids are not the only option at your disposal when it comes to treating chronic pain. Here, we’re going to look at the other potential routes worth considering.
- There is a range of other medications and soothing products that can help with chronic pain. Non-opioid medications include NSAIDs, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and acetaminophen. Naltrexone and muscle relaxants can also provide some relief for issues like fibromyalgia and musculoskeletal issues respectively. There are also topical pain relief gels and balms like lidocaine that can be applied directly to the body to offer some pain relief.
- A range of pain management techniques can be used to greatly improve your quality of life. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other forms of counseling can help you habituate to chronic pain, learning how to tolerate it. Meditation can help with issues like stress and anxiety, helping to improve quality of life. Distraction techniques have shown some effectiveness, with video games recently has shown some promise as an effective coping mechanism.
- Other treatments include electrotherapy, which some advocates for as being able to reduce chronic pain by using mild electric currents applied to the body in order to stop pain signals from reaching the brain. CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, also shows some promise as a pain relief strategy, but many are aware that there isn’t enough clinical evidence to fully support it yet.
A well-rounded strategy for approaching chronic pain, as well as the unwanted knock-on effects that can come with it, is the best choice when it comes to managing it without having to rely on opioids.
Treating Opioid Addiction for Those with Chronic Pain
Just as important as treating your chronic pain without relying on opioids is learning how to treat the opioid addiction for those living with chronic pain. It’s not untrue that cutting off from opioids can result in not only unpleasant withdrawal symptoms but also the return of more severe and frequent chronic pain. Yet, the treatments available at Opus Treatment can help, including the following:
- Safe detox treatments to help manage withdrawal symptoms, with 24/7 care and supervision of medical professionals.
- Opioid treatment using Suboxone and other medication-assisted treatments that can decrease dependency over time while offering some pain relief.
- Counseling and therapy to treat not only the addiction but to teach new pain management and coping mechanisms that can improve your quality of life.
Treat Your Pain and Quit Relying on Opioids with Opus Treatment
Which strategies are best suited for you and your struggles with opioid addiction and chronic pain depend on a range of factors, including the severity of your dependence and other health factors. As such, at Opus Treatment, we begin with a personalized consultation to help understand your circumstances as best as possible.
We know that chronic pain and opioid addictions come hand in hand, and the only reliable treatment plan is the one that tackles both. If you want to fight an opioid addiction at the same time that you learn how to manage chronic pain without drugs, then Opus Treatment is here to help. Get in touch today and we can learn which outpatient and inpatient services are best suited to help you on the road to recovery.
If you or a loved one needs help, call us at 949-625-4019.