Managing chronic physical pain during addiction recovery is a challenge many doctors are rue to accept in the age of the opioid crisis.
That’s why it’s so important for someone with chronic pain to know how to handle their pain outside of a hospital or rehab environment. Opioids aren’t always the antidote for pain!
Many of the people who abuse drugs were initially prescribed opioids by a doctor. A patient walks in searching for a resolution to his pain and walks out with addictive pharmaceuticals like Vicodin and Hydrocodone. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 80% of current heroin addicts report that they first started using opiates with prescription painkillers. Yes, the meds can take away the pain, but unless the patient is properly prepared for the physical and psychological effects of opioids – these fast-acting meds can cause long-term destruction.
Some patients take their medications as prescribed. Others burn for more. Both quickly notice that a few hours without a dose brings a return to both the original pain (amplified by a factor of ten) AND the painful ignition of opioid withdrawal. Time is no friend to these patients. The longer they take opioids, the less relief they will derive. The longer they take opioids, the more dependence develops until they became physically and mentally addicted.
The solution to reducing the physical pain? Take more pills. Digging the proverbial hole of physical dependence deeper and deeper. In order to get off the pain medication, many patients will turn to opiate detox centers for help. These programs can help patients overcome the physical and mental withdrawals associated with prescription opioid dependence. Once the patient is no longer physically hooked, one huge unresolved issue remains: how to function with chronic pain while dealing with physical and emotional toll of sobriety?
Pain management in recovery is vital to sobriety. When chronic pain again rears its tireless head, users are at high risk of relapsing. Learning how to safely and naturally manage pain and sobriety minus narcotic painkillers is essential to a healthier, happier life.
There are numerous non-narcotic medications out there to treat physical pain that don’t risk physical addiction. These non-opioid medications may assist with the management of acute and chronic pain: Gabapentin, Duloxetine, Tricyclic, Naproxen, Acetaminophen, Amitriptyline, Norpramin, DexPak and Prelone are some of the most commonly prescribed. Each medication has different and highly-specific label and off-label uses. Patients should only take these medications as prescribed by a physician who is informed of the substance abuse difficulties. (Note: If YOU are that patient, then it is YOUR responsibility to inform the physician BEFORE any prescriptions are written.)
Manage Physical Pain in Sobriety
A common myth in our society is that only drugs can cure pain. Some organizations including The American College of Physicians, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend drug-free treatments as the first course of action for chronic pain.
Taking charge of yourself and doing activities like exercise, physical therapy, yoga, acupuncture, distraction therapy, biofeedback, deep breathing, meditation and mindfulness training can do wonders. Work with your doctor to develop a flare-up protocol to follow whenever you feel a flare up spark.
Alternatives to Prescription Opiates
Millions upon millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain and addiction troubles. Some suffer from chronic headaches, others back pain. Some are recovering from surgery or have been sidelined by fibromyalgia. Every year hundreds of millions of opioid medications are dispensed to patients to help them cope with physical pain. Too many of these people will find themselves physically addicted to these pills or harmful street drugs. If you or a loved one are struggling with physical pain, investigate natural options before turning to narcotic pain pills as a solution.
For more information and resources regarding substance abuse help, visit Opiates.net the Life Skills Village Resource Links Page.
If you suffer with chronic pain and live in southeast Michigan, Life Skills Village offers a Pain Self-Management Program that teaches people how to manage their own pain.
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About the Doc
Dr. Bryan Weinstein is a practicing psychiatrist with certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He has practiced psychiatric pharmacology and psychotherapy since 1997. Dr. Weinstein is the CEO of Life Skills Village.