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Opioids and Chronic Pain

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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 the 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:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disorders like insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • 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:

  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone

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.

chronic pain

  • 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 advocate 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 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.

addiction treatment for opioids

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.

How Is Chronic Pain Linked With Addiction?

 Chronic pain syndrome is long-lasting and can continue even after the underlying injury or illness resolves.

This can also lead to mental health effects such as depression, anxiety, and even substance use.


Understanding Chronic Pain Syndrome

When we experience discomfort, our body lets us know something is wrong. If discomfort continues for three to six months or more, it is chronic.

For example, around 25% of people in this scenario then develop chronic pain syndrome or (CPS).

CPS means you have symptoms that are more than the discomfort itself.

Depression and anxiety commonly occur with CPS. These symptoms interfere with your functionality and your quality of life.

Treatment for CPS tends to require a combination of methods. You might receive counseling and physical therapy, for example.

Doctors don’t know entirely why some people develop CPS.

The condition can start with:

  • Arthritis
  • Other joint problems aside from arthritis
  • Headaches
  • Muscle strains or sprains
  • Repetitive stress injuries
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Nerve damage
  • Lyme disease
  • Cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Surgery
  • Broken bones
  • Endometriosis


Fibromyalgia ICD 10

Fibromyalgia only got an official diagnostic code, ICD1 10, in October 2015. The diagnostic code gave validation to people with fibromyalgia who had been suffering for years.

ICD-10 codes are used in the healthcare industry by doctors, government agencies, and insurance companies. These specific codes are to classify and diagnose conditions and diseases.

Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain.

Symptoms can also include mood issues, fatigue, sleep, and memory disturbances.

Doctors think fibromyalgia might increase strain sensations by affecting how your spinal cord and brain process signals.

How Can Chronic Pain Contribute to Addiction?

While continued pain is genuine and debilitating for millions of people, it isn’t easy to treat.

One treatment option is the use of prescription opioids.

Prescription opioids include drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone.

How Do Opioids Work?

Opioids are potent in relieving injury. Unfortunately, prescription opioids also have significant risks, including addiction.

  • When you take an opioid, it affects your central nervous system. 
  • The opioid can change how your brain sends and receives distress signals
  • At the same time, opioids also create a slowdown in the essential functions of your central nervous system. These functions include heart rate, blood pressure, thinking, and even breathing. 
  • If you take an opioid dose higher than what your central nervous system can handle, it could cause you to stop breathing.

Opioids don’t just slow the central nervous system.

For example, these drugs can also release extreme levels of neurotransmitters that make you feel good or even euphoric, like dopamine.

Those neurotransmitters create a high.

 Opioid use disorder, also known as addiction, is also a high likelihood of ongoing opioid use. An estimated one in four patients who receive opioids may develop an opioid use disorder.

Having an opioid use disorder means your use of these substances is out of your control.

The use of opioids becomes compulsive as you continue to use them even when there are known adverse side effects and outcomes.

The Opioid Epidemic

With around 20% of the adult population in the United States having a chronic pain disorder, we see how the opioid epidemic began.

For many doctors, prescribing opioids as a first-line treatment became common.

We didn’t necessarily understand the full risks of these drugs. Now, doctors are much more discerning in how they prescribe opioids.

Additionally, we know more about the addiction and dependence potential, but hundreds of thousands of people have died due to the opioid epidemic. 

Some people dealing with lingering pain may also use other substances for self-medication as well.

In addition, someone with constant distress may want to numb themselves, creating an opportunity for addiction.

Treating Addiction in Someone with Chronic Pain

When treating addiction in someone with chronic pain, we have to look at both conditions separately and within the context of each other.

 Dual diagnosis treatment can improve the likelihood of positive outcomes from your treatment. If you treat just one condition, such as the addiction, and not other underlying factors, you may be at a greater risk of relapse.

Safer Solutions

Doctors and health care providers are focusing their efforts on helping people with safer, more effective management strategies.

  • Health care practitioners now follow different prescribing guidelines for pain relief management. For example, doctors should use non-opioid medicines and behavioral therapy before opioids when possible.
  • If someone does need opioids, their doctor should prescribe the lowest effective dosage.
  • A health care provider is legally and ethically obligated to talk about the risks of opioids with patients and use drug monitoring tools.
  • If you do take opioids, you should only take the exact dosage your doctor tells you. You should never take a higher dose or more often than your dosage instructions indicate. Taking opioids outside of how prescribing guidelines increases the risk of addiction.



Non-Opioid Management Strategies

Strategies that are helpful for complex regional pain syndrome not involving opioids include:

  • Medications: Non-opioid and often over-the-counter medications can be effective tools in combating prolonged discomfort. Medicines include acetaminophen and NSAIDs. Topical medications like lidocaine may relieve symptoms, and for some people, antidepressants help.
  • Therapies: Many types of therapy techniques help. For example, cold and heat are helpful, as well as massage. Your doctor may talk to you about physical or rehabilitation therapy, acupuncture, exercise, and movement.
  • Injections or nerve blocks: For someone with nerve issues or muscle spasms, injections with a local anesthetic may help.
  • Relaxation techniques: Yoga, meditation, biofeedback, and other relaxation techniques can relieve symptoms. 

Researchers are working on some high-tech solutions for constant pain too. For example, technology-based management options include radiofrequency ablation, transcutaneous nerve stimulation, and spinal cord stimulation.

Solving Your Problems

If you feel that you are using opioids or other substances in a problematic way, reach out to Opus Health at 855-953-1345.

Our team can help work on a treatment plan that takes your pain into account, as well as your substance use disorder. 

If you or a loved one needs help, call us at 949-625-4019.

We're here to help you and your loved one!(949) 617-1211