Chronic Pain and Addiction

Written by: Ankita Kathad – MA (Psychology)

Last updated date : November 03, 2022

Chronic pain refers to frequent and persistent pain. In medical terms, it is a pain that lasts for twelve weeks or more. Addiction refers to the dependence on any substance or object. Chronic pain and addiction can co-occur. In this article, we explore chronic pain addiction. The objectives of this article are to explore how medicines such as opioids used for chronic pain can become a source of addiction. Further, we try to understand how we can manage the pain without getting addicted. We also understand how we can reduce our dependency in the case of opioid chronic pain addiction.


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Chapter 1:

What Is Chronic Pain? How Is It Related to Addiction?

There are two types of pain acute and chronic. Acute pain resolves on its own. Chronic pain is long-term. A lot of people suffer from chronic pain. It can interfere with daily life too. The pain can impact social life. It can lead to a lot of absenteeism at work. People with this pain may feel tired and less healthy overall. It can lead to fatigue.

The drugs used for treating the pain often include opioids or morphine. They can lead to addiction. Consumption of these medications over a long period of time can lead to addiction. In simple terms, the cure sometimes becomes the problem.

Opioids work on the parts of the brain that handle pain perception. They flood the brain with high levels of dopamine. It reduces pain and makes a person feel good. Sadly, as the person keeps taking it, their tolerance for the drug increases. They crave higher doses to reduce the pain and feel good.

It is difficult to spot addiction in persons with chronic pain. Many who take opioids don’t get addicted to them. However, some people are predisposed to get addicted. Additionally, there are many other factors such as the mental health of the person or environmental factors that can cause chronic pain followed by addiction.

Past history of substance abuse is also a big factor in chronic pain addiction. Also, cheaper drugs that relieve pain can lead to chronic pain addiction. Drugs like heroin are cheaper and easily available. People who consume them to reduce pain at first, get dependent on it

  1. A person will be constantly craving medicines that can cure the pain
  2. They will be taking medicines even when a doctor has not advised.
  3. They will keep asking the doctor for drugs again and again
  4. It is possible that they will build a tolerance for drugs. This means that the person has to take a larger amount of opioids.
  5. They will keep spending time and money to procure opioids.
  6. One can have withdrawal symptoms if opioids are not available.

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Chapter 2:

How to Treat Opioid-Related Disorders

It is important to seek medical help from an expert if there is severe dependence. An effective way to treat this addiction is by creating awareness. The person can be told about how his pain and addiction are related. This also helps to reduce the shame attached to addiction. The person understands where his cravings are coming from. Sometimes people are not aware of alternative forms of therapy. This is why they rely on addictive substances. Other forms of therapies are showing great results. They also contain fewer side effects.

Many times, the pain can lead to depression. Pain affects many aspects of a person’s life like his work and social life. In this case, opioids can increase dopamine which makes the person feel good. The person would want to stay in that state for a longer time. The expert, therefore, checks the mental health of the person. Any unhealthy coping patterns and thoughts are checked. This involves the person’s distress caused by pain. Thoughts about pain perception and its effect on behavior.

Therefore an effective way to deal with this pain is by using a combination of methods. This will include taking a detailed case history, medicines with no addictive properties, therapy, and other methods such as diet control. Here are some ways in which you can manage the pain. 

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Chapter 3:

Ways to Manage Chronic Pain without Opioids

Chronic pain and addiction can be a tricky battle. On one hand, you want to get better. Therefore you take medicines. However, the same medicines have the potential to make you dependent on them. Therefore there are other ways in which one can relieve chronic pain without the use of these medications. Here is a list of the ways in which chronic pain addiction can be managed.

Pain Management Plan

It is important to have a plan to manage chronic pain and addiction. Be open with your doctor about your history. Address the history of substance abuse. It is important to be ready for a non-medication-based treatment option. This route takes effort and discipline. Make a note of techniques that are working well and discuss them with the doctor. Consult regularly with the doctor. Moreover, if there are symptoms of distress or depression seek help from a mental health expert.

Exercise and Physiotherapy

A lot of pain is linked to factors like being overweight, lack of exercise, and improper posture. Therefore one can try to create a healthy routine. This routine can involve regular exercises. Exercise can help in reducing pain. When we exercise, we also tend to reduce weight. This helps to fight weight-related chronic pain. Many conditions such as arthritis are related to unhealthy body weight. It is important to eat healthily and maintain a healthy body weight. Exercising can also improve mood which can reduce distress or help in fighting depression.

Additionally, physiotherapy can help with different types of pain such as spinal cord injuries or cervical pain. This therapy includes a number of exercises that target specific muscle groups or joints. They are designed in a way to provide maximum relief to the person. They are performed under an expert who holds a medical degree.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy can help with opioid addiction in chronic pain. There are many ways in which mental health experts reduce a person’s dependency on a substance. Counseling is a good option in chronic pain addiction. Therapies can help an individual learn how to change their physical, emotional, and behavioral response to pain. Psychotherapy also helps to address other issues such as distress due to pain. Psychotherapy resolves earlier history of substance abuse too.

Massage and Acupuncture

These alternate methods of treatment have helped many people to get rid of chronic pain. They also offer a relaxing experience. It is however important to note that these therapies should be discussed with the doctor first. They may not e the first line of treatment in chronic pain addiction but they can help reduce opioid dependence.

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Chapter 4:

Endnote

Chronic pain can disrupt your routine and affect various aspects of your life. When combined with addiction, it creates more and more trouble. Additionally, it can affect the life of the family members. Firstly there are financial costs. Secondly, addiction leads to name-calling in society. This can lead to more distress. Therefore it is necessary to manage the addiction. Addiction can also lead to death. At Epsychonline, there are effective courses like Chronic pain. These courses are self-help. Experts have curated the course to make it simple and easy to understand. Moreover, there are many articles on the website that deal with pain and pain perception. Do check them out.


"Quick online learning, thanks!" Susan

92 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount