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Wednesday, 05 July 2017 13:47

Chronic Pain Management and Opioid Addiction

By: Tammy M. Bolles, LCSW

Our stressed out society is very focused on comfort. A spa, salon, or massage therapist’s office can be found on almost every corner. Who doesn’t enjoy an occasional foot rub or the ability to sit back for a pedicure without a care in mind? For most people “comfort” simply means a time to relax and allow the stresses of life to fade from your mind for a bit.

However, for those who struggle with chronic pain, finding comfort is an everyday challenge. Chronic pain is defined as any pain that lasts more than 12 weeks. It can include post-surgical pain, pain from injuries related to an accident, lower back pain, cancer pain, arthritis pain, pain caused by Fibromyalgia, and pain caused by nerve damage.

To relieve their chronic pain for even a few moments at a time doctors often introduce their patients to opioid pain medications like Vicodin, Percocet, Demerol, Lorcet, Opana, Oxycontin, and Fentanyl. These medications do their job well in providing much-needed relief, but can quickly become a pain-burdened individual’s new best friend.

When Your Best Friend Becomes Your Worst Enemy

Trouble arises when the pain medications begin to rule their lives. As with most narcotics, the initial dosing works for a period of time until the body builds up a tolerance to the chemical. The dosage must then be increased to allow the patient to find the same level of comfort they experienced initially. This is where the cycle of addiction often begins. The “new best friend” starts to reveal its dark side. Soon, all they can think about is their “new best friend” and they become willing to do anything it takes to get more of it even bypassing the doctor who prescribed the medication and seeking out alternative methods of getting their hands on it.

Having an opioid as your “best friend” may help you stay free of pain for a period of time. But, once it wears off and your body becomes accustomed to higher and higher doses you may begin to see the downside to this “friendship” such as muscle aches, runny nose, anxiety, sweating, insomnia, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and dilated pupils.

To rekindle the “friendship” with this “new best friend” you may begin taking drastic measures to get your next dose, including lying, stealing, and manipulating friends and family—whatever it takes.

Though not all individuals with chronic pain develop an addiction, it has, unfortunately, become a growing trend. According to the New York Times, the current opioid epidemic in the U.S. killed more than 33,000 people in 2015 alone. (Bosman, J.2017)

It is unclear how many of these individuals suffered with chronic pain, but it does raise the question: Is opioid pain medication being over prescribed? It also leaves those suffering from chronic pain facing difficult decisions.

As a nation that is currently in an ongoing battle with opioid addiction, effectively managing chronic pain while preventing and treating addiction continues to challenge healthcare providers and chemical dependency counselors alike.

Find Freedom from Both Chronic Pain and Addiction

Google search ‘opioid use’ and you immediately see a clear lack of collaboration among physicians and addiction professionals, as most articles that come up focus on the viewpoint of one or the other. Influencing physicians and addiction experts to work side-by-side may be the key to a pain and addiction free solution to the current dilemma. There should be a better solution for those who suffer from chronic pain that will relieve their physical pain without leading to addiction. The “cure” for chronic pain should not be worse than the disease.

If you suffer from chronic pain, it’s important that you take a proactive approach to treatment as you seek relief. Educate yourself on the prescribed medication, consult multiple healthcare providers, and ensure all of your doctors are aware of all medication changes. Remain vigilant in your endeavor to also find alternative life adjustments that may ease pain such as a change in diet and/or exercise, yoga, meditation, or acupuncture. As a precaution, you may also want to seek out guidance from an Addiction Therapist or Mental Health Counselor to help ensure that you don’t become dependent on the medication. These proactive approaches can help prevent a long and painful battle with opioid addiction that you never saw coming.

In the event that you find yourself addicted to prescription pain medication, you are most certainly not alone. We’ve helped many chronic pain sufferers free themselves from addiction, and find effective, alternative methods for relieving their pain through our highly individualized treatment program. For more information, give us a call at 1-800-244-4949. Our friendly staff are ready to help you take a look at your treatment options, and will help navigate through your health insurance benefits.


Bosman, J. (2017 06). Inside a Killer Drug Epidemic: A Look at America’s Opioid Crisis. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from

Hedegaard H Chen LD, Warner M. Drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin: United Sates, 2000-2013. HCHS data brief, no 190. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved June 19, 2017, from

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