Chronic pain is a serious medical condition that affects millions of people. For many, pain from chronic conditions such as arthritis, back pain, or fibromyalgia is debilitating and often leads to the use of prescription painkillers. If you have a chronic pain-related substance use disorder (SUD), chances are, your drug of choice isn’t prescription medication — it’s illicit drugs, such as marijuana and opioids. It can be easy to slip into a cycle of self-medicating with substances when you have chronic pain. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an alternative to using illegal substances.
There are many ways you can manage your chronic pain through self-care and support from others while still keeping your SUD under control. The following articles offer strategies for recovery from chronic pain if you do have a substance use disorder as well as tips on how to center yourself and be mindful when managing your SUD so you can remain drug-free in the long term.
What is chronic pain?
Chronic pain is defined as “uncontrollable pain that persists or increases over time.” Pain is the experience of a physical sensation, such as a headache or a toothache. It’s often described as an unpleasant feeling, but the exact mechanism of how we experience pain is not completely understood. Chronic pain can be caused by a number of factors, including an injury or condition leading to tissue damage. However, chronic pain is most often caused by conditions that lead to ongoing inflammation, such as arthritis, back pain, or fibromyalgia. For most people, chronic pain doesn’t last forever; it varies in intensity, and it often comes and goes. For SUDs, however, chronic pain can be an ongoing factor that contributes to substance use.
Why does someone develop SUDs in response to chronic pain?
Chronic pain can be a difficult experience for anyone to navigate, but it can also be a catalyst for drug use. For people with chronic pain, the dangers of abusing prescription painkillers are well-documented. In 2014, more than 25 million Americans reported misusing prescription opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin. In fact, opioid use disorder is the leading cause of drug dependence, affecting about 2.5 million Americans. Chronic pain can also be an important factor in addiction in other people. For example, someone who started using drugs because of depression might then seek out opioids to manage his or her pain; this person could then progress to abusing opioids, which ultimately leads to a SUD.
Strategies for recovery from chronic pain
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing your pain and staying drug-free. Because pain is an individual experience, what helps one person with chronic pain is not going to work for another. Learning to listen to your body, take good care of your health, and maintain a stable social life can help you stay healthy and avoid patterns of SUDs. With time, you may find that coping with chronic pain is easier than you expected, and you can then start to incorporate recovery strategies into your daily life. The following are some of the most common chronic pain self-care strategies.
Keep a pain diary – The more actively you take an interest in your pain, the better you’ll be able to manage it. Keeping a pain diary can help you better understand your body and your experience of pain. You can also use a pain diary to track your pain and make healthy lifestyle choices.
Manage stress – Chronic stress can contribute to inflammation and worsen pain. Try to incorporate stress-reduction strategies into your day, such as meditation or exercise. You can also try to identify the source of your stress and work towards identifying solutions.
Keep a pain-healthy lifestyle – A pain-healthy lifestyle includes maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding excessive alcohol or substance use. You can also try complementary therapies such as massage, acupuncture, or yoga to help manage stress and improve your mood.
Find support – A support system can be a great resource during times of emotional or physical hardship. Try to identify people in your life who you can lean on for support, including loved ones, friends, and health care professionals.
Mindfulness practices for managing chronic pain
There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life if you have chronic pain. Mindfulness can help you cultivate an awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. This increased mindfulness can help you become more aware of how you’re feeling, which can in turn help you identify patterns of pain and stress, and make healthier choices. Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways, such as taking a few minutes each day to breathe mindfully and be mindful of your thoughts and feelings. You can also try practicing mindful eating by eating slowly, paying attention to each bite, and acknowledging when you’re full. Choose foods with a low glycemic load — foods that don’t raise your blood sugar as quickly — so you have time to enjoy your food and eat mindfully.
Chronic pain is a real struggle for millions of people. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing your pain and staying drug-free, there are many strategies you can try to stay healthy and avoid patterns of SUDs. Mindfulness can be a great tool for stress management, as well as a way to identify healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise or relaxation strategies. You can also find support in your community by reaching out to organizations that can offer assistance, such as a support group or helpline. In addition to these strategies, it’s important to remember that recovery is a process — one that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, effort, and patience — but it’s well worth it.
There is a wide range of treatment options for opioid addiction, from medication-assisted treatment to inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs. The most important thing is to seek help as soon as possible so that you can start on the path to recovery. You can overcome your addiction and lead a healthier, happier life with the right treatment plan. Call us at 833-680-0165.