We all know someone who suffers from chronic pain: arthritis swelling joints, muscles pulling spines or cancer pain.  Studies show that chronic pain effects more than 100 million Americans a year—compared to 25.8 million Americans suffering from diabetes or 16.3 million suffering from heart disease.  So what exactly is chronic pain?  Normal, or acute pain, is the everyday pain humans feel when the body is injured.  This evolutionary response is the body signaling the brain to protect us from further hurting ourselves.  But what happens when those signals are faulty and never turn off? That’s chronic pain.  Those suffering from chronic pain will experience pain constantly, over a period of months or sometimes years. This constant pain can create emotional and mental changes as well.

Chronic pain can be a symptom of disease or disorder, such as: arthritis, tendinitis, carpal tunnel, autoimmune disorders, shingles, MS, fibromyalgia and cancer.  It can also be a result of events causing spinal injury, nerve damage, concussion or traumatic brain injury.  A lot of people turn to medication to manage the pain.

Over prescribing doctors, little knowledge of the risks, pre-disposition to addiction and growing tolerance of medications can result in a dependence on opioids. Addiction is a disease that millions of people are suffering with alongside their chronic pain.

Opioids, like hydrocodone, are effective at relieving pain; however, the potential for addiction and chronic use are high and the side-effects can be devastating.  The longer these medications are used, the more the body needs to effectively reduce pain. As the body develops a tolerance, it also develops a dependence.

It’s important to understand the warning signs of addiction. They include:

  • Requiring increasingly larger dosages to achieve the same effect
  • “Doctor shopping” or seeking prescriptions from multiple physicians
  • Changes in mood or energy levels
  • Withdrawing from family or friends
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Becoming defensive when loved ones bring up a potential problem

Deteriorating appearance and declining physical hygiene

The United States has seen a shocking increase in opioid addiction and deaths related to addiction in the last decade. Between 2001 and 2014 alone, The Centers for Disease Control noted that the number of people who died from prescription opioid overdose increased almost three fold.

If you’re worried that you or a loved one has developed an addiction from chronic pain, there is another way to live.  It’s time to seek professional help. A drug rehab treatment program will help to develop a recovery plan to address your addiction so that you can begin the process of healing and reclaim your life.

AAPM Facts and Figures on Pain. (n.d.) Retrieved August 9, 2018, from http://www.painmed.org/patientcenter/facts_on_pain.aspx