Chronic Pain

While there is a wide range of prescription and recreational drugs that a person can be addicted to, it’s very common for people who are suffering from chronic pain to become addicted to prescription medications. Medication provides temporary relief from the pain that the person is experiencing. But this may lead them to feel the need to take a higher dose of the medication than they’ve been prescribed, which increases the possibility that they will become addicted.

It’s important and even necessary to take an extensive look at the connection between chronic pain and addiction. Knowing more about this subject can help individuals to know about the resources that are available to them.

What Is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain involves any kind of pain in the body that lasts for at least 12 weeks. For instance, any lower back pain that lasts for longer than 3 months would be considered chronic pain. In many cases, chronic pain is unable to be fully cured, which means that individuals will need to seek long-term medication use as a form of treatment. With an acute injury, the severity of pain lessens over time. Chronic pain, however, can last for weeks, months, or years. In fact, the pain may never dissipate entirely.

Chronic Pain and AddictionChronic pain commonly causes problems with mobility, strength, and flexibility throughout the body. Furthermore, suffering individuals may find it challenging to complete everyday tasks. While chronic pain typically lasts for 12 weeks or longer, this pain is different for everyone. In fact, the pain can be sharp, dull, or cause a burning sensation. Keep in mind that chronic pain can occur in practically every area of the body. The main types of chronic pain include:

  • Post-trauma pain
  • Headaches
  • Arthritis pain
  • Cancer pain
  • Pain from nerve damage
  • Lower-back pain

Common Conditions That Cause Chronic Pain

Many cases of chronic pain occur as a result of a simple injury. For instance, the pain from a severe back sprain may be chronic. This pain develops when damage is done to the nerves. Moreover, this kind of damage is long-lasting and intense when compared to more superficial damage. Resolving chronic pain involves treating the underlying injury, which isn’t always possible. In certain situations, chronic pain occurs even without an injury. Instead, the pain is a result of an underlying health condition. These conditions include:

  • Endometriosis – This is a common disorder that results in uterine lining growing outside of a person’s uterus, which leads to severe pain.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease – This refers to several different conditions that affect the digestive tract and cause painful inflammation.
  • Fibromyalgia – This is a widespread and long-lasting pain within the bones and muscles throughout the body.
  • TMJ – This condition causes locking, clicking, or popping within the jaw, which can be very painful.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome – This chronic condition leads to severe and prolonged tiredness that is often accompanied by bouts of pain.

Medications That Treat Chronic Pain

There are three basic types of medications that treat cases of chronic pain. These medications include:

  • Opioid pain relievers, which include morphine and hydrocodone
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers, which extend to aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Adjuvant analgesics like anticonvulsants and antidepressants

Many people also turn to alcohol in order to relieve their pain. When looking specifically at alcohol and chronic pain, nearly 28% of patients self-medicate with alcohol. The alcohol will numb the pain and provide a temporary reprieve. The problem with combining alcohol and chronic pain is that an alcohol use disorder can cause withdrawal symptoms. When someone with chronic pain goes through withdrawal from alcohol, their sensitivity to pain increases. In turn, this individual will be more likely to continue drinking in order to reverse the withdrawal symptoms.

Why People Often Misuse These Medications

Medications That Treat Chronic PainPeople with chronic pain are susceptible to an opioid use disorder because their body becomes used to the relief that’s provided by the medication. When this relief goes away, they experience consistent pain and discomfort. Pain and addiction link to one another because of the medications mentioned previously. While pain relievers and adjuvant analgesics provide pain relief, this relief doesn’t last forever. As such, the pain will come back and can be difficult to manage.

If the pain becomes too difficult to manage, the individual may not follow their prescription. For instance, they could take a high dose or consume the drug more often. When a person begins to abuse a medication, addiction is increasingly likely. Opioids are particularly addictive and can produce withdrawal symptoms. The side effects that a person experiences during withdrawal make relapse more likely. Even though opioids are highly addictive, medical professionals regularly prescribe them.

The reason why opioids are addictive is because they bind directly to opioid receptors in a person’s brain. As a result, the person experiences pleasure and euphoria within their body, which significantly reduces pain. However, the changes that opioids make to the brain can cause tolerance or dependence on the medication. At this point, treatment is necessary to help manage the addiction.

What to Expect From Opioid Withdrawal

The primary medication that a person becomes addicted to when suffering from chronic pain is a pain reliever. Opioid pain relievers are potent medications that cause dependency and withdrawal. As such, anyone who stops using opioid medications after becoming addicted to them will suffer from withdrawal symptoms. Standard withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Goosebumps
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • An increased heartbeat

These symptoms can worsen if treatment isn’t sought immediately. The best way to keep these symptoms at bay and recover from the addiction is to obtain treatment.

Chronic Pain and Addiction Treatment Centers

In the event that a person becomes addicted to their pain medication, there are a range of treatments they can select. For instance, the main addiction treatments include medical detox, inpatient rehab, partial care, and outpatient treatment. Each option has its own advantages that the patient should be aware of.

Medical Detoxification

Medical detox is the first step for any treatment program and is necessary to recover from an addiction. Without supervision, withdrawal symptoms for alcohol or any kind of drug are difficult to manage. These symptoms typically cause people to resume taking the substance that they are addicted to.

Medical detox ensures that the patient gets through their withdrawal symptoms without experiencing adverse side effects. Medical professionals are on hand 24/7 in the event that any side effects occur. In some cases, small amounts of medications are administered to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. Once the drug has passed through the patient’s body, they can move on to the next facets of treatment. The detoxification process can last for anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

Next Stages of Treatment

Chronic Pain and Addiction Treatment CentersWhether the patient enters inpatient rehab, a partial care program, or outpatient treatment, they will take part in group therapy, individual counseling, family therapy, and similar treatments. These treatments and therapies are able to help each patient cope with their cravings and manage their addiction. The best treatment centers offer customizable treatment programs that match the patient’s needs.

A partial-care program allows patients to take part in recovery for five days each week. On the other hand, outpatient treatment aims to focus on therapy and counseling with an addiction professional on a weekly basis. If the pain and addiction are severe, inpatient rehab may be necessary. This is a comprehensive treatment option that requires the patient to remain at rehab 24/7 for anywhere from 30 days to more than a year.

Seeking Treatment at the North Jersey Recovery Center

When a person wants to address their chronic pain and addiction, they can do so at the North Jersey Recovery Center. Located in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, this treatment center offers a range of customizable treatment methods. Whether suffering from an alcohol addiction or opiate addiction, the North Jersey Recovery Center can treat many different types of addiction. The goal of treatment is to help each patient build a foundation for substance-free living.

The four pillars of addiction treatment that this center provides include medical detox, inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment, and partial care. This recovery center also offers dual-diagnosis treatment. Patients who request dual-diagnosis treatment typically suffer from a mental health disorder alongside an addiction. In fact, long-term substance abuse often triggers mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. Different patients require different treatments, which is why a wide range of treatment options are available at the North Jersey Recovery Center.

If you are experiencing the challenges of dealing with chronic pain and addiction to alcohol or drugs, seek treatment immediately. At the North Jersey Recovery Center, we aim to provide each patient with customizable care to ensure that all of their needs are met. Call us today to learn more about your options for recovery.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Medical Reviewer

Laura comes to NJRC with 23 years of vast clinical experience in hospital, residential, outpatient, and community outreach settings where she has worked, supervised clinical teams, and volunteered. She has provided substance abuse and mental health counseling, clinical coordination, and advocacy to individuals, families and groups, and specializes in co-occurring disorders for both adults and adolescents.