Chronic pain is one of the hardest to manage conditions for people with a substance use disorder. Coping with physical ailments and pain can be the reason some people start using substances. They may start using substances for another reason and end up spiraling in their use of substances and alcohol as a means to cope with chronic pain. Either way, the treatment for chronic pain and substance use disorders is called a dual diagnosis. When more than one other thing is coinciding with a substance use disorder, both should be treated concurrently to ensure the person gets the best chance for recovery. Find out how chronic pain and substance use disorders are connected and why it matters.
Defining Chronic Pain
Pain starts in the brain. The brain sends signals that something is wrong and tells the body damage has occurred or may be occurring. Pain may last a short while or become chronic (long-lasting). Chronic pain is pain lasting beyond the healing of an injury, which continues for several months or longer, even years. Diagnosis and treatment often are required by healthcare professionals who can look at how the pain started, why it continues, and any pathways involved in sustaining the pain. The type of pain and its origin are determining factors in how to best treat the pain going forward. Narcotics are almost always a last resort because of how toxic they are to the body and the risk of developing an addiction.
Types of Pain
When it comes to types of pain, it is essential to know what kind of pain can develop and how it emerges. This knowledge can determine how a person decides to manage it on their own, typically with the use of substances or alcohol.
Somatic pain: injury to muscles, bones, joints, or tissues can occur. Somatic pain is dull, aching, and localized in one area. It can be caused by inflammation, but it does not disappear after a reasonable period.
Visceral pain comes from an ongoing injury to an organ or tissues supporting the organ.
Neuropathic pain: believed to be caused by changes in the central nervous system that sustain pain after an injury. May be associated with physical or emotional trauma or any number of different diseases.
Psychogenic pain: chronic pain linked to emotional upheaval. Depression or anxiety can create stressful situations. Emotional distress may be a consequence of pain or contribute to pain itself.
Addictive medications like opiates should be a last resort because they can cause lots of problems for people over time. Harmful substance use over time can have severe medical, legal, and social consequences for a person’s life. The only course of action to discontinue medications is to detox safely with a treatment center focused on helping people become healthy and whole after a substance use disorder.
Opioid and opiate medications are readily prescribed to treat chronic pain and physical injuries for different reasons. No matter how a person came to use the drug, they likely need it to help mask the pain symptoms and function normally in their everyday life. Substance use disorders are a pattern of compulsive behavior characterized by cravings for opiates and opioids. Cravings can become overwhelming and can result in loss of control or compulsive substance use, despite consequences, and obsessive behaviors regarding the use of a substance. Life may become pretty unmanageable by the time they are desperate enough to seek help. Even then, they may not be able to admit the need for help. A person with chronic pain has likely suffered from mental health disorders that are untreated because chronic pain is the primary symptom being treated. Many people fear the only solution to relieve chronic illness lies in taking opiates or medication indefinitely. Pain symptoms may become aggravated when they cannot sleep, are not eating well, or taking care of themselves because of substance use behaviors.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Treatment centers can provide counseling and support services for individuals with chronic pain and substance use disorders. These services help people in recovery control chronic pain using other techniques and coping tools without potent substances. It might mean a holistic approach to constant pain control that includes exercise, meditation, and breathwork. Substance dependence can develop, and discontinuation of opiates is not recommended alone due to withdrawal symptoms. Treatment of chronic pain and substance use disorders also includes support for mental health issues. A team of medical specialists and clinicians is needed to treat the person with care, dignity, and respect. In this way, they can find treatment for chronic pain but also support for substance use behaviors. Healing from all of it will take some time, even if chronic pain never completely heals. The goal is to find hope that things will get better, gradually, and that life is better when substance use disorders are finally in the past.
Steamboat Springs, located in the Rocky Mountains, provides a setting for the natural stimulation of mind and body allowing for a return to our innate senses and a new foundation from which to build. Foundry Treatment Center’s vision was formed through personal experiences and continues to grow through the dedicated compassion of the Foundry team. We share a commitment to provide a comprehensive, whole-body treatment program that encourages each to seek their own values and beliefs through innovative and evidence-based treatment modalities. For more information on how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at 1-844-955-1066.