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Chronic Pain, Anxiety, Depression and Prescription Drug Addiction

Updated on

I’m not an addict, I have legitimate pain!

Chronic Pain and Prescription Drug Addiction
Chronic Pain and Prescription Drug Addiction

According to the American Pain Foundation, there are 50 million Americans that suffer from chronic pain each year. Chronic pain is a response elicited by the brain and spinal cord after the body has been injured or there is a potential to be injured. Prescription drugs offer relief from chronic pain and are used for pain management. After the body becomes dependent on pain medication, the person will require a medically monitored drug detox program to safely stop using.

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is a persistent physical feeling of discomfort which lasts longer than the average expected response time for pain. Pain can be mild or excruciating, constant or episodic, and/or a mild disturbance or debilitating. The most common causes of chronic pain are:

  • Low back pain
  • Arthritis
  • Headaches
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Nerve Damage (neuropathy)

Over the counter medications or holistic medicines like CBD Oil, can offer relief from these types of disorders. Narcotic medications are often prescribed for chronic pain relief for moderate to severe pain and should only be taken under the supervision of a medical doctor. Two types of narcotic medications are:

Narcotic medications are highly addictive due to the euphoric effects they produce. Even short term use of narcotic medications may require a monitored drug detox to safely rid your body of the drug.

Getting Hooked While Seeking Relief

When taking medication as prescribed, your body will likely become accustomed to the effects of the medication dosage. The effectiveness of the medication will then decrease. Tolerance to the medication begins and continues to build in stages. A need to increase the medication dosage or frequency is due to the development of tolerance which is the body’s natural response to narcotic ingestion. Once the body has become dependent on the narcotic medication to function, tolerance leads to addiction. While seeking relief for chronic pain an individual is vulnerable to addiction.  Addiction treatment that includes drug detox is important for an individual to begin changing their approach to chronic pain management.

Warning signs of addiction to prescribed narcotics are:

  • Complaining of vague symptoms to get more medication.
  • Lack of interest in treatment options other than medication.
  • Seeing several doctor’s and pharmacies to get more pills.
  • Using prescription pills prescribed for others.
  • Requesting a specific medication and dosage from the doctor.
  • Frequent episodes of “losing” the prescription.

The regular use of narcotic medication combined with tolerance may lead to a rebound effect. The rebound effect of increasing pain is deceptive. While the original source of pain may have resolved, narcotic medication will then mimic the experience of intensified pain over time. The pain feels worse, more medication is needed, and the cycle of addiction is present. This is called opioid-induced pain syndrome.

If you relate to the increasing use of pain medications and a growing intensity of pain and would like more information about treatment for chronic pain, drug detox, and addiction treatment, call a Recovery Connection coordinator at 866-812-8231

Chronic Pain and Anxiety/Depression

Being in chronic pain deteriorates mood and increases irritability. This mood change has a negative impact on social interactions, employment, family relationships, and overall mental health.  Chronic pain requires that an individual alter his or her way of life to manage the pain. Chronic pain causes fatigue, sleeplessness, irritability, changes in mood and withdrawal from activities. Anxiety and depression are among the most common mood disorders associated with chronic pain. Examples of anxiety and depression symptoms related to chronic pain are:

  • Fear of being in pain or never being pain-free.
  • Irritability because of physical discomfort on a regular basis.
  • Avoidance of certain physical activities which causes isolation.
  • Worry about having enough medication to last till the next doctor’s appointment.
  • Sleep disturbances either due to constant worry about pain or physical discomfort.
  • Increased arguments with family members or friends who don’t understand your pain and challenge your medication use.
  • Depression or anxiety due to the inability to participate in enjoyable or normal life activities.

The psychological impact of chronic pain can be overwhelming. The narcotic medication relieves physical pain and takes the edge off anxiety and depression. The individual who suffers from chronic pain may start to misuse and then abuse the medication as a way of dealing with uncontrollable feelings and situations. Misusing narcotic medication worsens physical pain symptoms as well as increased anxiety and depression. A drug treatment center will offer to counsel for mental health issues related to mood changes due to chronic pain.

Living Comfortably with Chronic Pain

It is possible to learn how to live comfortably with chronic pain. Narcotic medications should never be the first choice for managing pain. A drug treatment center will help you explore alternative treatments for coping with chronic pain. Some alternative treatments are:

  • Physical Therapy
  • A TENS  Unit (electrical disruptions in pain)
  • Local Anesthetic Injections
  • Biofeedback
  • Hypnosis
  • Surgery Options

Physical interventions for chronic pain must be coupled with mental health interventions to achieve the best results.

Drug Detox and Drug Rehab

In a medically monitored drug detox, an accurate comfortable assessment of pain can be determined. During the detox process, pain management options will be discussed. A doctor will be able to monitor your withdrawal symptoms and your pain levels and help you find the best treatment alternatives to narcotic pain medication. It is advised that the drug detox and a drug rehab be offered within the same facility to keep the same doctors, nurses, and therapists that are working on your case. The time between detox and rehab is crucial. Many people will return to using while waiting to enter residential drug treatment.

After years of narcotic medication use, an individual will have to acquire the skills needed to avoid becoming dependent again. Addiction treatment for chronic pain includes helping the individual learn how to cope with pain, anxiety, and depression. Lakeview Health offers a specialized program dedicated to helping people recover from addiction while managing their chronic pain.

  • Dr. Mark Gerges

    Mark M. Gerges, MD reviews and edits content for RecoveryConnection.com to ensure that we are delivering the most accurate information available in the addiction treatment and recovery space.

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