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Treatment for Chronic Pain and Addiction

- 6 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Opioid addiction has become a serious problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 68,630 people died from an opioid overdose in 2020 and more than 130 people die every day as a result of opioids.[1] While most people imagine heroin when they think of opioid addiction, it is more common for individuals to abuse prescription opioid medications.

While prescription opioids are effective in treating the symptoms of pain, many people who take these substances long-term become addicted to them. This is not to say that opioids are not an important aspect of the management of chronic pain, however, you should be aware of the risks associated with this form of treatment.

If you or a loved one become addicted to opioids after taking them for chronic pain, attending a professional drug and alcohol rehab program can help you recover from addiction and provide you with alternative ways to manage chronic pain.

What is Chronic Pain and How is it Treated?

Chronic pain is persistent pain that lasts for longer than 12 weeks despite using medications or receiving treatment.[2] While many people recover from pain resulting from an operation or injury, some individuals experience long-lasting pain that becomes chronic. This is only one of the reasons you could begin suffering from chronic pain.

You could experience chronic pain if you live with one of the following conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable bowel
  • Back pain

There are many ways to treat chronic pain, but the most common form of treatment is the use of opioid medications. While taking opioid medications can provide you with relief from the chronic pain that you desperately need, it can also lead to the development of dependency and addiction. If you become addicted to your pain meds, you should always seek help from a licensed addiction treatment program that specializes in treating chronic pain.

How is Chronic Pain Connected to Addiction?

While opioid medications are a primary treatment for chronic pain, experiencing this type of pain puts you at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that “chronic pain and associated emotional distress are thought to dysregulate the brain’s stress and reward circuitry, increasing the risk for opioid use disorder.”[3] In other words, chronic pain changes your brain in ways that make you more susceptible to becoming addicted to your opioid medications.

As time goes on, you will develop a tolerance to your pain medication, causing you to need more of the substance to experience pain relief. When you continually increase the dosage of opioid medication, your chances of becoming addicted increase substantially. As a result, many chronic pain patients develop opioid use disorders and require addiction treatment services.

Options for Chronic Pain and Addiction Treatment

Many people suffering from chronic pain and opioid addiction avoid attending treatment because they rely on opioids to relieve the debilitating pain that affects them daily. If you are suffering from an addiction to your pain medication, it is important to know that drug rehab programs will help you find effective ways of managing your pain while helping you recover from addiction. In other words, treatment will include addiction treatment services and chronic pain recovery techniques.

In addition to traditional addiction treatment services, the following may be useful in treating chronic pain without opioids:

Holistic Treatment Options

Addiction treatment programs that specialize in treating co-occurring chronic pain will offer holistic treatments to address your symptoms of pain and help you recover from addiction. Holistic treatments can help you recover from substance abuse by providing you with physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing. Holistic therapies can also be effective in decreasing or eliminating the symptoms of chronic pain.

Types of holistic treatments for addiction and chronic pain include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Chiropractic services
  • Exercise
  • Nutritional therapy

These services can help your body recover from certain conditions or injuries that are causing you to experience chronic pain. Additionally, if you suffer from a condition that is not curable, holistic therapies can help you learn how to naturally manage the pain without needing medications.

It is important to note that there are options for non-habit-forming medications that can manage your pain without causing you to develop an addiction. Oftentimes, these medications are used in combination with holistic treatments to provide you with as many healthy coping mechanisms as possible to address your chronic pain and prevent you from relapsing.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

In addition to holistic therapy, most drug rehab programs provide chronic pain and opioid addiction patients with medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Medications like buprenorphine and methadone are used during MAT to manage symptoms of opioid withdrawal and prevent opioid cravings. This is because these substances are synthetic opioid agonists, which means they act on the opioid receptors in your brain in a similar manner as traditional opioid drugs.

While medications like buprenorphine and methadone are technically opioids, they do not cause the symptoms of intoxication that people get addicted to when they take traditional opioids like oxycodone or morphine. This makes medication-assisted treatment (MAT) one of the most effective methods of treating co-occurring opioid addiction and chronic pain.

Find Treatment for Chronic Pain and Addiction Today

If you suffer from chronic pain and have become addicted to your opioid pain medication, recovery is possible. While you may feel like taking opioids is the only way to feel relief from your pain, professional drug rehab centers can provide you with alternative treatments for pain while helping you recover from opioid addiction. This is usually done through a combination of holistic therapy and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

To learn more about our chronic pain and opioid addiction treatment program, contact Carolina Center for Recovery today.