Addiction and Pain Management: No Easy Answers
There are many people in addiction that also suffer from chronic pain. Some became addicted to substances like opioids by using them for pain, either chronic or after surgery of some sort. This creates somewhat of a conundrum.
What does someone do for chronic pain who is addicted to alcohol or other drugs? What does and addicted person do for chronic pain after a surgery? What does someone who is addicted to opioids do in the event they are in chronic pain or post-surgery and require pain management?
Opioids are very addictive
There are no easy answers to these questions. First, for someone addicted to drugs or alcohol there is a very high probability they will become addicted to any drug used for pain if there is not stringent medical supervision of the pain medications. Second, even for those currently not afflicted with drug addiction, pain medications such as opioids are incredibly addictive drugs, and these people may become addicted to them.
For some it may be after a substantial amount of time on these drugs. However, for others, it may happen after a relatively short time.
Opioids are wildly addictive as seen by the current opioid epidemic and the resulting multibillion-dollar lawsuits against the companies making these products.
Much has been done by federal, state and local governments and regulatory agencies to limit the dosage and duration for prescribed opioid usage. That said, these drugs are widely available through illegal means. We are certain that laws are having an impact on prescription usage, but we are also sure that these same laws are driving up illegal opioid sales.
Governments around the world are working to limit illegal opioid sales, but it does not appear to have had much impact as criminals craft ever more sophisticated methods to transport and sell illegal drugs.
From our experience, once people become addicted to opioids, they will do almost anything to continue their use and will acquire them wherever they can and from whomever they can.
What to do?
What can people do who suffer addiction and chronic pain? What can people who suffer from addiction do if they require surgery that will result in significant pain post-surgery? We have dealt with many clients in these situations. If pain medications can be avoided, they should be. There are ways to deal with pain through meditation and other holistic approaches.
That said, for some the pain is simply too much to bear without medications. If this is the case, we recommend finding a well-respected pain management physician who is an expert in the field of both pain management and addiction. These physicians have methods and tactics to carefully monitor the client in a manner that is conducive to not overusing the pain medication. For those in chronic pain, we recommend a similar approach.
If finding a pain management expert to assist is not possible, at the very least we recommend that a trusted family member assist their addictive loved one in a way that lowers the chance that pain management medication will be overconsumed.
Some individuals who suffer from addiction have such intense chronic pain that they require a “pain pump” with them at all times. This device administers pain medication at a monitored pace though out the day and overnight. In cases such as these, there are few alternatives. For back pain, there are certain electric devices that can be implanted into the body that reduce pain. For some suffering addicts, these devices may provide an alternative to pain medications.
In any event, for addicts required to take pain medications such as opioids, we recommend following a recovery process while taking the medications. This usually includes things like meditation, prayer and breathing exercises. These healthy activities may reduce the amount of pain medication needed and help prevent overconsumption of the medications.