Chronic Pain Management & Pain Pill Addiction
Q. What do you do with someone who is addicted to pain pills but can’t come completely off because of continual pain?
I have read your book “Why Don’t They Just Quit?“ and also gave it to my sister to read. She has a daughter who has a pain pill addiction. The problem is–she can’t just quit because the reason she was put on pain pills in the first place was because she has an incurable back problem.
I don’t remember your addressing this in your book, but what do you do with someone who has a pain pill addiction but can’t come completely off because of continual pain?
~ Betty F. (Tampa, FL)
A. Dear Betty,
This is a difficult dilemma. If your sister’s daughter has genuine, documentable chronic pain (by that I mean a physician has done a thorough exam and can point right to the problem) then this can be a huge challenge.
There is a lot I don’t know from your short email such as her age, type of injury, how long it has persisted and so on.
If she were my daughter I would want to personally go with her to a Dr. appointment and hear the prognosis first-hand. And I am not talking about going to a pain management clinic–but to the physician who is medically treating her injury.
The downside to using opiate pain meds (pain pills) for pain is that the person can/will build a high tolerance to them (if used over many months or years) and even if the original issue that caused the pain were to heal, the patient won’t be able to tell–because their central nervous system now expects opiates to come in on a regular basis. If this doesn’t happen, the body will “revolt”–go into withdrawal.
Your email stated “she has an incurable back problem.” I don’t know what that may mean, how severe the pain is, what has or has not been tried. I’m not a medical doctor. I do know trying lots of other options with the hope of finding a better solution than opiates is worth the effort.
There are often, other options for chronic pain management. Neuromuscular stimulators, stretching, exercise, chiropractic adjustments, over the counter medications, acupuncture, as well as surgery are some treatments for chronic pain. Some physicians use placebos, which in some cases have resulted in a lessening or elimination of pain. Psychotherapy, relaxation and medication therapies, biofeedback, and behavior modification may also be employed to treat chronic pain.
These options require work and a willingness on the daughter’s part to maybe go through a little more pain to find an alternative.
Keep in mind that all the while–she knows in the back of her head, that she can just take another pill or two and get instant relief. This can be a real mental tug-of-war.
Perhaps the best advice is to take the time to find a doctor that truly understands addiction, chronic pain management, pain med abuse along with the psychological mind game that a patient will struggle with.
I can advise you of several resources for advice or suggestions that you may find helpful—depending on your location.
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