Is there treatment for substance use in a person who has chronic pain? Although it can be difficult to effectively treat chronic pain without substances, it is both possible and necessary to do so in order to effectively address drug and alcohol dependence.
Treating substance use and chronic pain together can be extremely challenging. Pain increases depression and anxiety; in addition, the substances used to treat pain are often ones that are easily abused by people with addiction. A very specialized program is needed to successfully gain sobriety.
Chronic Pain and Substance Abuse
Having a chronic pain disorder places people at incredibly high risk of developing a substance abuse disorder. First, the opioids and other medications that used to be first-line treatments for pain are now known to be extremely addictive. Many people who take their pain medication as prescribed have ended up with a physical dependence.
In addition, chronic pain tends to cause a great deal of depression and anxiety. It is very difficult for people to cope with the constant and debilitating nature of pain. They often become hopeless and desperate, which leads to increased risk of addiction. As a result, people with chronic pain are at a sharply increased risk of needing drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Treating Chronic Pain in Recovery
It is very possible to treat almost all forms of chronic pain without opioids and other habit-forming medications. In fact, several studies have found that treatment over a long term is actually more effective when opioids are not used.
There are several options for opioid- free pain management, which include:
- Non-habit-forming medications such as acetaminophen, NSAIDs, and gabapentin
- Antidepressants, which have been found to significantly reduce chronic pain when taken for weeks and/or months at a time
- Changes in diet, exercise, and sleep habits
- Therapy to build new coping skills for pain management
- Treating the root cause of the pain when possible
These steps are often enough to make pain tolerable so the person can focus on their substance abuse recovery. However, if these do not make pain tolerable, many recovery centers will allow patients to use small amounts of prescribed opioid medications to treat extreme levels of breakthrough pain. In some cases, learning to use these medications in a healthy way is part of the recovery process.
Is It Time to Get Help?
It can be difficult to tell if a person who has chronic pain also has a problem with drug or alcohol abuse. However, there are a few telltale signs:
- Changes in routine or habits
- Going to more than one doctor or hospital for pain medications
- New friends or acquaintances that do not seem healthy and caring
- New financial problems or a new need for increased amounts of money
- Problems with the law
- Seeming intoxicated or sleepy, more than one typically does with pain medication
- Needing increased amount of medication to effectivelty treat pain or other symptoms
If you or a loved one are suffering from any of these symptoms, you likely need help. This problem will only get worse, leading to greater life problems and even larger amounts of chronic pain. Drug and alcohol abuse can even threaten lives. Only a professional and specialized treatment program can help you to overcome your substance abuse while addressing your chronic pain and other medical needs.
A Dual Diagnosis Requiring Special Care
Dual diagnosis refers to any time that a person with a substance use disorder also has another health issue needing to be treated at the same time. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common dual diagnoses seen in treatment centers. However, many people suffer from a dual diagnosis including some kind of chronic pain.
Chronic pain can make it difficult to treat addiction, but not impossible. With the right therapeutic environment and a motivated patient, effective treatment for substance abuse is both possible and likely.
Is it time to ask for help? Our counselors are available 24 hours a day. Call 833-762-3739 to find out more about substance abuse rehabilitation with specialized treatment for chronic pain.