Opiate Addiction Epidemic and Chronic Pain Management

Opiate Addiction and Chronic Pain Management

The opioid addiction epidemic in America has affected every segment of society. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1999-2014, the sale of prescription opioids quadrupled. For many chronic pain management patients, long-term prescription of opiates by their doctors led to an increase in tolerance, dependence, and eventually, addiction. The over-prescription of opioids has certainly contributed to the epidemic of addiction in America, and in many regions has led to widespread heroin use as the supply of prescription opiates is stymied by new regulations. Unfortunately, for patients who legitimately need chronic pain management for conditions such as fibromyalgia or back injuries, opiates are a dangerous option. For patients with chronic conditions in recovery, alternative chronic pain management methods are necessary to prevent a relapse into addictive behaviors.

Chronic Pain Management Through Opioids

For many years, doctors believed that the most effective and safest way to provide patients with relief from chronic pain was through prescribing opioids, such as oxycodone or fentanyl. In the 1990s and early 2000s, conventional wisdom in the healthcare industry was that prescription opioids have a low risk for abuse or addiction and that patients in severe pain are not at risk of becoming addicted to opiate medication. These beliefs led to a huge increase in opiate prescriptions for patients who had chronic pain management needs. Unfortunately, after numerous studies and investigations into the abuse of prescription opiates, it was discovered that these drugs are, in fact, highly addictive regardless of the patient’s pain level. For many people who were prescribed opiates on a long-term basis to treat chronic pain, addiction has become a tragic consequence of the over-prescription of opiates in America. Rather than investigating alternative forms of treatment, many doctors prescribed patients opiates over a long period of time, without realizing their potential for addiction. As the government has begun to regulate opioid prescription patterns through national databases, many patients have been cut off from their prescription opiates, but still have a tolerance and dependence on the drug. Oftentimes, these people turn toward illicit opiates that can be bought on the street, such as heroin.

Risks of Opioid Use

Even for patients who are prescribed opiates in order to treat a chronic condition, the risks of opioid use are serious. If abused or improperly prescribed or used, opioids can cause:

  • Increased tolerance, leading to physical dependence
  • Overdose
  • Respiratory system depression, or slowed breathing
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Addiction
  • Increased risk of sleep apnea
  • Hyperalgesia, or an increase in pain
  • Gastrointestinal problems

Long-term opiate use can lead to a host of medical and psychological problems, including addiction. For non-terminal patients who are seeking chronic pain management, the danger of using opiates to treat that condition is that it puts the patient at risk of developing a lifelong addiction to opiates. This increases the risk of abuse and overdose on prescription medication or switching to illicit substances such as heroin, to feed the addiction.

Chronic Pain Management in Sobriety

For many recovering addicts, chronic pain is an unfortunate reality. This type of pain can come from many health conditions, including:

  • Back pain from slipped or bulging discs, injury, fractures, or structural development issues such as scoliosis
  • Migraines or cluster headaches
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Nerve damage or nerve pain, such as sciatica
  • Joint pain caused by arthritis
  • New injuries or poorly-healed old injuries
  • Cancer

For people trying to maintain long-term recovery from drugs and alcohol, opioids may not be a viable option for their chronic pain management plan. Each patient’s doctor can come up with the most effective, individualized treatment plan for their patient. Fortunately, there are many methods of chronic pain management that do not require the use of narcotic medications, for patients who struggle with addiction or for whom addiction in a concern. This includes:

  • Non-narcotic pain medications, such as Ketorolac
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage and acupuncture
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Exercise and nutrition plan
  • Corticosteroids or nerve blocks

Rather than putting patients at risk for addiction, many doctors have sought alternative treatment methods to help patients with chronic pain safely get relief from their conditions.

How We Can Help

At Wellness Retreat Recovery, we specialize in the treatment of every aspect of addiction, from the physical to the psychological. Our small program allows our staff to develop individualized treatment programs for every patient that caters to their unique needs and concerns. For patients with chronic pain, we can help create a program that addresses their needs and helps them to achieve long-term recovery from substance abuse. If you wish to seek treatment for opioid or any other addiction, call us today at 1-888-738-0692.