How Is Pain Managed for People in Recovery for Addiction?

managing pain, pain management for addicts in recovery, pain management without opioids

Pain Management for Recovering Addicts

Many people who suffer from chronic pain are prescribed opiates to treat their condition by reducing pain and improving mobility. If they begin abusing opioids or become addicted to them, they will need to enter an addiction treatment program. They shouldn’t take opioids while they are overcoming addiction, so the problem exists as to how to get the chronic pain under control, so they can function normally and handle daily activities.

The University of Michigan Health Lab shows potential in a low-cost, non-drug approach that combines social support along with behavioral therapy to facilitate managing pain without prescribing drugs. A new approach called ImPAT (Improving Pain during Addiction Treatment) had positive effects in a group of 55 veterans who participated in the program.

They had 10 weekly sessions set up by a research team at the VA Center for Clinical Management Research in Ann Arbor along with the University of Michigan Addiction Center.

Veterans participating in the program received the care from ImPAT in along with treatment for addiction reported an increase in functioning, decrease in overall pain levels, and a decrease in alcohol intake.

These results were improved over the results of a similar group who received an approach that was less-focused by participating in therapist-led peer support groups. But because both groups were also getting treatment for addiction, there was a positive impact on drug use with a reduction in usage.

Chronic Pain and Addiction

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 5% to 17% of those who have a substance abuse disorder suffer from chronic pain.  This poses a difficult task for primary care providers because they understand these patients experience pain, but they are less likely to get an adequate form of pain management than those in the general population who haven’t been treated for an addiction.

There are distinct kinds of pain that require unique treatment and choosing the right option that will be effective for someone who has an addiction to opiates but also suffers from chronic pain can be challenging. After all, failing to address the chronic pain is cause for drug use to resume or worsen.

Options for Treating Chronic Pain While Recovering from Addiction

Chronic pain can be treated effectively without opioids. For example, there are anticonvulsants and antidepressants that might help with certain kinds of pain.

  • Anticonvulsants – pregabalin and gabapentin are used to treat epilepsy but also help nerve pain
  • Tricyclic antidepressants – these antidepressants can help with mood and sleep disturbances that come with chronic pain
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors – Cymbalta is approved to treat both depression and musculoskeletal pain, pain from fibromyalgia, and peripheral neuropathy pain related to diabetes. Effexor might be effective to treat diabetic neuropathy.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – There are prescription strength NSAIDs that can help with chronic pain from osteoporosis, headaches, and rheumatoid arthritis. Mobic and Celebrex are newer prescription NSAIDs that treat chronic pain. The Flector patch and Voltaren gel might reduce musculoskeletal pain as well as osteoarthritis when used directly on the area.

Holistic Methods Without Drugs

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) might be effective for treating different kinds of pain and even improve an individual’s quality of life, according to Practical Pain Management journal. CAM is often used along with traditional medical techniques. There are several treatment options with CAM, so the patient will need to determine which treatment works best. Here are some commonly used CAM options that help with chronic pain.

  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal remedies and supplements
  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage therapy
  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness meditation

Other Options for Treating Chronic Pain

Physical therapy can help improve functioning and assist with chronic pain management. The nerves of the body might need retraining, with resetting of the hyperactive nervous system, especially after long-term opioid use. The body will have to relearn the perception of touch or sensation. Exercise that is careful can help restore these damaged nerves.

Besides getting help from a physical therapist, mental health providers offer tools that are helpful for pain management as well as improving the quality of life.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be helpful for those who experience chronic pain, since it can teach coping mechanisms and how to handle the stress. CBT can also help improve the state of mind of the patient, which can suffer negative impact because of chronic pain.

There are effective treatment options for those who are undergoing addiction treatment but suffering from chronic pain. Your healthcare provider can help you come up with the right solution for your needs.



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