Chronic pain is a widespread issue, affecting roughly one in five of all Americans. Prescription opioids are often used to combat this issue, but they come with their own risks. In particular, many patients may end up combatting chronic pain with opioids to manage their pain on a daily basis. Sadly, this can lead to addiction. We’re going to discuss how to recover from opioid addiction and chronic pain in Los Angeles.
The relationship between opioid addiction and chronic pain is not always guaranteed, but the stats don’t look good. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that 80% of heroin users have at some point been on prescription opioids used as painkillers. An estimated 21-29% of people who have taken prescription opioids abuse them and, out of that number, roughly one in ten will develop an opioid addiction.
However, it is not impossible to manage chronic pain without the use of opioids and other addictive drugs. Here, we’re going to look at what you need to know about chronic pain, its relation to opioids, and what you can do to manage it without them.
What is Considered Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain is a widespread and highly varied issue. While the most common cause is back pain, it’s far from the only cause. It can be hard to diagnose, as well, so while attempting to find the cause, many doctors will focus on treating the pain first and foremost. For one, there is a broad range of potential causes. These include the following:
- Acute injuries, such as sprained wrists, ankles, sciatica, and muscle pain.
- Acute illnesses, such as an infection that causes significant pain.
- Chronic illnesses like arthritis and fibromyalgia.
- Musculoskeletal deformities, like a maladjusted spine.
- Nervous system issues may interrupt how pain signals operate between the body and the brain.
Idiopathic chronic pain, cases without a clear cause, is also an issue, accounting for a range of headaches, joint pains, back pains, sinus pains, and nerve pains. It can take time to discover the potential cause of chronic pain if it can be found at all. So, while attempting to find the root cause of the issue, treating the only prevalent symptom: the pain itself is often the first route of attack for doctors.
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, any alterations you have to your dosage, and so on.
Symptoms & Health Issues Related to Chronic Pain
Chronic pain can be experienced differently from person to person, as it is caused by such a diverse range of issues. Ways it can differ from person to person include:
- Frequency, with some experiencing it intermittently and others experiencing it constantly
- Severity may be a dull ache for some, while for others it may be truly debilitating
- Sensation, some feel pains like electric shocks, others experience burning sensations, shooting pains, throbbing aches, painful tightness or stiffness, or something else entirely.
The physical sensation of the pain itself is not the only issue you may have to contest. You may also experience some of the following symptoms that are attributed to chronic pain:
- Sleep problems, like insomnia, sleeping at odds hours and interrupted sleep
- Fatigue and drowsiness are both common side effects of those sleep problems as well.
- Changes in mood, even chronic mental illnesses like depression and anxiety
- Changes to your appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- A weakened immune system leads to more frequent issues with the flu, colds, and other bugs
Finding effective management for your chronic pain can reduce an overall improvement in the quality of life, helping to combat many of the symptoms mentioned above. As such, the responsible use of pain medication can help, but it’s not always easy to guarantee that an individual isn’t at risk of becoming addicted.
When Chronic Pain Leads to Opioid Addiction
How do people suffering from chronic pain end up at a greater risk of developing an opioid addiction? Starting with an opioid prescription may be the key determining factor. Not all medications used to treat chronic pain fall into this dangerous category. Some medications frequently used that aren’t opioids include the following:
- Over-the-counter medications, including NSAIDs, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Depending on the need, the dosage may be altered or increased.
- Antidepressants are used for their perceived ability to increase natural neurotransmitters in the body. These may include clomipramine, doxepin, and amitriptyline.
- Anticonvulsants are not fully understood in relation to chronic pain relief but have been demonstrated to help. A common theory is that these medications, most often used to treat issues like epilepsy, stop pain signals from reaching the brain. While not as potentially dangerous as opioids, there is an addiction risk with some anticonvulsants, too.
We use these medications over time, our body tends to change its response to them. On one hand, we can grow used to the substances, meaning they are less effective at treating pain, and, as such, some tend to increase their own dosage or look for stronger opioids. Our body develops a dependence on them, which means we can start to crave them more and more, even as they lose effectiveness.
A prescription isn’t essential for an opioid addiction to develop in response to chronic pain, either. Self-medication often leads to addiction. An individual may acquire opioids strictly for pain management or may use them and other addictive substances to treat mental health problems, sleep disorders, or changes in appetite associated with chronic pain.
What is Chronic Pain Management Without Drugs?
It is possible to manage your chronic pain without reliance on opioids. Here, we’re going to look at a range of management tactics that are worth looking into:
- The aforementioned non-opioid medication like NSAIDs, antidepressants, and acetaminophen can help replace opioids.
- Muscle relaxants include diazepam, which can help with musculoskeletal pain.
- Naltrexone, when used in small doses, can help with issues like complex regional pain syndrome and Fibromyalgia.
- Topical pain relief balms and gels like capsaicin and lidocaine can be applied directly to more acute sources of pain to offer some relief.
- CBD, the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, is touted by some as highly effective pain relief, though it is not widely available everywhere and clinical tests are still in their infancy.
- Meditation is used not to treat chronic pain directly, but to manage the mental issues like stress and anxiety that may form as a result of it. This can result in an overall improvement in your quality of life.
- Certain kinds of therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy, can help you become more aware of negative thoughts and redirect them towards more effective coping mechanisms.
Without opioids, it’s still possible to manage your pain. It’s important to develop a well-rounded strategy that offers both the relief of the pain itself, as well as the chance of managing and mitigating side effects like sleep deprivation and mental illness. This can lead to an overall improvement in your quality of life that might even surpass the effectiveness of opioids alone.
What is Opioid Diversion?
Simply put, chronic pain opioid diversion often occurs when a person who has been prescribed an opioid-based drug to control their chronic pain begins to abuse it, give it to friends, or exchange it on the black market. The problem with opioids is that the human body becomes used to their effects. Soon it takes more of the drug to achieve the original desired results, whether that be pain management or the “high” associated with using opioids.
What Does Opioid Diversion Have to Do With Chronic Pain?
The most common form of chronic pain opioid diversion occurs when those who have been prescribed these medications give them to family or friends who are often trying to self-medicate a common pain.
On the other hand, someone who is so addicted to opioids can seek out illicit sources to obtain more drugs than they are prescribed at one time. Since ethical doctors won’t prescribe too many, as opioid addiction is well-known today, sometimes a person with chronic pain will grow a tolerance. This means they no longer feel the relief they desire from the doctor-advised dosage. Therefore they might seek drug dealers, illegal online opioid vendors, or acquaintances in order to obtain more and more opioids.
More often than not, chronic pain opioid diversion occurs when these medications are taken more for their rewarding effects. They are frequently injected (heroin) or in the case of pills swallowed or crushed and inhaled (snorted). More importantly, most opioid abusers tend to take far more of these drugs than were originally prescribed by the doctor. Food for thought– while opioids are often prescribed for acute pain, there is still some question as to whether they are effective in the treatment of chronic pain.
Residential treatment for chronic pain and opioid addiction.
At Opus Treatment, we know the close relationship between opioid addiction and living with chronic pain. For that reason, we are able to provide residential treatment that can help you both get clean while learning how to manage your pain in a way that’s much less risky in the long term. For instance, we can provide:
- Carefully monitored detox treatments to help get the drugs from your system in the safest way possible while managing withdrawal symptoms
- Medication management, including the use of Suboxone to decrease dependence on opioids and the use of alternatives.
- Counseling and different types of therapy, including CBT, EMDR, and Motivational Interviewing can help you learn new pain management strategies while managing your addiction.
Finding the Help You Need
If you’re dealing with both opioid addiction and chronic pain in Los Angeles, you need an approach that understands and tackles both issues at once. That’s what we offer at Opus Health through both inpatient and outpatient programs.
We know that many of our opioid-dependent clients began using medication to treat chronic pain, which may very well be a part of their life even now. As such, we work with you to understand your individual needs. We can help you both fight opioid dependency while teaching you the tools you need to manage your pain without having to rely on addictive and potentially dangerous medication. Get in touch for a consultation today and let’s find the best path to your recovery.
If you or a loved one needs help quitting opioids while experiencing chronic pain, call us at 855-953-1345