Opioid addiction is one of the fastest growing diseases in the country. Each year, thousands of people face addiction to prescription painkillers or heroin, which is made from the same substance as painkillers like vicodin. Opiates are a highly addictive drug that also carry with them serious risks for overdose and other severe health issues.
Many people who suffer from opioid addiction are initially introduced to the drugs when they are prescribed them for a legitimate medical issue, such as after surgery or following a major injury. Many others may begin using the drugs recreationally and find that they quickly develop addictions.
Many of these addicts, particularly those who were introduced to the drugs because of issues with chronic pain, may find that they continue to experience issues with chronic pain after they have achieved sobriety. This can present something of a challenge for physicians, who must find solutions for treating chronic pain in patients who are addicted to the very drugs generally associated with pain management. Though treating the co-occurring disorders of chronic pain and addiction can certainly be a challenge, it is by no means an impossible feat.
One very popular way of managing chronic pain is through the use of non-opioid analgesics. Non-narcotic pain medications are a very good way of dealing with pain management in many cases because they offer substantial pain management and are not habit forming or mind altering. Drugs like extra strength ibuprofen or aspirin can be used at higher than normal doses at times when pain levels are exceptionally high. They also work well in tandem with other treatment methods, such as topical treatment. Non-opioid analgesics do not generally offer quite as high of pain management levels as their opioid counterparts, but for many patients they may in fact be an ideal long term solution.
Topical treatments can be highly effective for certain types of chronic pain. They may range from icing to heat pads to use of treatments containing menthol or other warming or cooling agents. Topical treatments can be particularly effective when paired with an ibuprofen or other non-opioid regimen. Topical treatments are also ideal because unlike other types of treatment, they pose little or no threat of liver or stomach damage, and can be used as often as necessary with virtually no risk of overdose or severe harm.
In many instances, homeopathic remedies can be quite effective in both treating and preventing serious pain. There is much anecdotal evidence to support the effectiveness of methods like acupuncture to treat chronic pain, and other types of physical manipulation such as massage or physical therapy can help to relieve severe tension due to injury. Regular visits to a massage therapist can help prevent chronic pain episodes before they occur and exercises in physical therapy designed to strengthen muscles around injured areas can treat the root causes of pain and ideally prevent chronic pain from advancing.
Agreement With Patients
In some instances, a physician may decide that the only mode of adequately treating chronic pain is through the use of prescription opiates. When this is the case, a doctor will generally talk to their patient and assess whether they are taking the steps necessary to maintain their sobriety while prescribed these drugs. In order to ensure that prescribed drugs are taken appropriately, said doctor may require proof that a patient is regularly seeing an addiction treatment counselor or attending a twelve step meeting or both. Most doctors agree that this should only be approached as a last option.