Help When Addiciton Complicates Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain: A Way Out

There is a Way Out

Addiction is a "chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.." by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. The brain circuitry responsible for addiction interacts with and alters how the brain processes pain signals; for this and for many other reasons, addiction complicates the treatment of pain and pain complicates the treatment of addiction.

No single treatment is likely to  "cure" chronic pain, whether it be medication, surgery, injections, physical therapy, counseling, or alternative/complementary approaches, but pain can be managed. When complicated by addiction, pain management  requires comprehensive, integrated approaches that address the many biological, psychological, and environment factors that increase pain and trigger addiction cravings. Often, individuals suffering from chronic pain are de-conditioned and require specialized physical therapy in order to restore function. They may be discouraged, anxious, depressed or "stressed"-- conditions that respond well to specialized pain psychotherapy but not to routine "talk therapy." Medical pain management programs may over-emphasize medications and procedures, ignoring other approaches and, when present, drug or alcohol abuse. A strictly medical pain management approach reinforces the mistaken belief that chronic pain is primarily a biological disorder that can be "fixed" by doctors. Juast as medical pain programs often fail to recognize or treat substance use disorders, addiction rehabs often fail to address pain, thus increasing the risk of relapse.

When both addiction and pain are present, good care  integrates treatment of both conditions.

The Way Out

There are specialized programs that treat both chronic pain and addiction, and links to respected programs are provided here. Unfortunately, many people are unable to participate in formal pain management programs, but they can create their own treatment plan through the selection of caring, knowledgeable local healthcare providers and by developing a strong commitment to self-care.

Developing and maintaining positive beliefs about oneself and optimism about the future are essential to recovery. Love, compassion, good nutrition and proper exercise enhance the body's ability to heal itself. With proper care, recovery is not only possible, it is likely!