What is Chronic Pain?
Pain is a natural sensation that is triggered by your brain when you’ve been hurt in some way. The purpose of the pain response is to let you know that you may have injured yourself and need to take care of yourself. We have all been in pain at one time or another. Maybe from a fall, burn or sports injury, but typically that pain level is short-lived. In order for pain to be classified as chronic, it needs to be acute pain that persists for months or even years. Common chronic pain complaints include headache, low back pain, cancer pain, arthritis pain or pain that results from nerve damage.
Chronic Pain and Addiction
Chronic pain is often treated with opiate prescription pain medication, also known as painkillers. While intended to be a short-term medical intervention, with chronic pain people often find themselves using the pain medications for long periods of time and addiction is usually not far behind. This is because pain medication doesn’t actually heal the pain or take it away. It simply masks it and the person gets high with an illusion that the pain is temporarily gone. Over time, you need to take more pills to get the same result, so tolerance increases and the presence of withdrawal symptoms when you don’t take the medication are inevitable. The cycle then spirals and the addiction is born.
Non-narcotic Chronic Pain Treatment
At Destination Hope, we work with clients suffering from chronic pain by providing a lot of therapy to help them cope with the emotions and life consequences that have manifested as a result of their pain. We also work with healthcare professionals that can offer physical therapies and non-addictive medication options to chronic pain sufferers battling addiction.
Painkillers affect the pleasure centers in the brain, and eventually pain medication actually creates more pain as a result of increased tolerance and withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can be quite painful, making it difficult to determine how much pain a person is in, as a result of a physical injury vs. withdrawal, until they are detoxed appropriately, and the pain medications are out of their system.
After detox, we work with clients to assess their pain levels and ask scaling questions to evaluate how debilitating their pain is, or if they are able to function at some level. From there, we utilize a combination of non-narcotic approaches. These include massage, acupuncture, physical therapists, meditation and chiropractors. Oftentimes, people are looking for a quick fix, and when you’re in pain, that can mean taking a pill rather than putting the work in to heal or help the injury recover. Non-narcotic physical medical treatments with healthcare professionals can make a big difference in quality of life for chronic pain patients, but they have to be patient with the process and be willing to put in the work toward their recovery. There are also a variety of medications that are non-addictive that can help relieve the symptoms associated with chronic pain.
The other thing we focus on with chronic pain patients is cognitive behavioral therapy, which addresses the reality of a person’s situation in a therapeutic environment. Regardless of personal circumstances or socioeconomic status, we all have pain – emotional, physical or mental – it’s a reality of life. It’s a matter of learning to realistically deal with it. After the pain medications are out of a person’s system, we start to see the underlying anger, frustration and self-pity come out, and we work with clients to help them address those feelings.
Living with chronic pain doesn’t have to mean a life plagued by addiction to painkillers. Call the counselors at Destination Hope to learn more about our drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. We are here to help you recover – day or night.