prescription addiction

How do you achieve recovery from prescription addiction when you’re in chronic pain? This is a question that recovering addicts and their families struggle with constantly. The recent rise in cases of prescription drug addiction has caused a change in the prescribing habits of medical professionals. Many doctors are no longer endlessly prescribing strong opioids or narcotics for the treatment of chronic pain resulting in the need for alternative types of treatment for these chronic and ongoing conditions.

Pain sufferers can easily become addicted to their pain relief medications and this has become a huge problem. Once addicted, the patient requires large amounts of the drug on a regular basis in order to maintain their addiction. If intervention is sought, the patient can be weaned off the drug, or stepped down to a less powerful narcotic. The hope and goal is that they can recover from the physical and psychological addiction with assistance from medical professionals and through counseling. That’s a great goal, but the problem comes when the pain remains. The former addict has to find other ways to manage his/her pain.

Chronic pain can lead to depression and can be extremely destructive to relationships with loved ones. You and your partner have issues to overcome in dealing with addiction and its effect on your relationship as well as the medical, physical and mental consequences of living with someone who is suffering and in pain. In addition to medical intervention, it’s recommended that you seek couples and/or family counseling to help you to deal with all that you are facing. It can be extremely overwhelming to try to manage the medical and psychological consequences of chronic pain and prescription addiction.

The good news is that there are more alternatives available for chronic pain sufferers than ever before.  We’ll explore some here:

Acupuncture: A study conducted in 2013 showed that regular acupuncture reduced pain in the subjects by about 50%. This practice has been around for thousands of years in Eastern Medicine and has become more mainstream and accepted in recent years .If you’re looking for alternatives to pills and patches and aren’t squeamish about needles, get your chi (life energy/ vital force as defined by Eastern Medicine) flowing with some acupuncture. Some insurance plans will even cover acupuncture as an alternative therapy.

Yoga: Another ancient practice from the East that has gained in popularity worldwide is Yoga. There are various types of yoga, depending upon your reasons for practicing. It is surprisingly helpful for chronic pain sufferers. Yoga teaches full body relaxation and mindfulness, and also teaches breathing control which can be quite effective for relieving and “breathing through” the pain. Yoga is one of the more highly recommended forms of full body exercise for people with chronic ailments, especially those that are unable to tolerate more vigorous forms of exercise. Yoga allows you to strengthen your entire musculature which can help to alleviate pain caused by weakness in muscles and joints. This is something that you and your partner can do together and it can be a way of making a positive connection and working together to overcome the pain.

Herbal Remedies: Herbalists have been treating pain for thousands of years with herbs and botanicals. Whether taken internally in the forms of teas or tinctures, or made into pastes and poultices, herbal remedies are another alternative for chronic pain sufferers. Familiar herbs and spices such as turmeric, arnica, black pepper, basil, cayenne, fennel and garlic (to name but a few) are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and have been used by healers for generations. Herbal remedies were dismissed as witchcraft in puritan times and as quackery with the advent of modern medicine and pharmaceuticals. These natural remedies are currently experiencing resurgence as viable alternatives to pharmaceuticals.

Medical Cannabis: Specially cultivated medical cannabis is also becoming a more mainstream and accepted alternative to pills and patches for pain. The medical strains of the plant are high in cannabinoids and very low in THC (the substance that gives the narcotic effect). Derivatives of the plant are made into topical creams, oils and tinctures that can be applied directly to the painful areas of the body and data is being collected on the efficacy of these products as it becomes available. The drugs have been synthesized for cancer patients, and cannabis is being prescribed for pain in various forms with increasing frequency. Anecdotal evidence is very positive for the ability of medical cannabis to provide pain relief to chronic pain sufferers.

For addicts, this may not be the best alternative. Some patient smoke the drug to obtain the desired effect which can lead to becoming addicted, which is what we’re trying to avoid. The medical community is divided on whether this is a good alternative to pills and patches due to the narcotic effect of the THC. .

Nerve Blocks/ injections: Some patients are looking to modern medicine to stop their chronic pain by getting regular injections of anesthesia or steroids to the affected area or to block nerve responses that are causing chronic pain. These are extremely effective, but are not a long term solution. The injections can be expensive and quite painful in and of themselves. This is sometimes (as with chronic back or knee pain) the last resort prior to surgical intervention.

An addict has to be 100% dedicated to his/her recovery. If you struggle with pain killers and chronic pain, I urge you to get help. Explore these other options for pain relief and get some advice from your medical and mental health professional. Contact a pain management center in your area and talk to a specialist about what alternatives are right for you.

Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters.

His weekend workshop, Two Days: Seven Conversations has become a popular venue for many to set off on their journey of connectedness. The Couples Expert Podcast consists of weekly provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship related fields. Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips on The Couples Expert YouTube channel.

Stuart practices in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he lives with his loving wife of many years, and their therapy dog, Ollie.The above- referenced acupuncture study was published the Archives of Internal Medicine

Referenced in the Harvard Health Blog

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