Chronic Pain & Opioid Treatment: What You Need to Know

August 15, 2017

Millions of Americans report having chronic pain on some part of their body. Yet, a plethora of myths and misinformation about the causes and treatments is still circulated. Why is this? Well, a majority of misinformation comes from the need for more concrete data to be collected in reference to this issue. Some people do experience chronic pain due to an injury or one distinct incident. Although, thousands of patients are having troubles with regular pain, but they are not able to pinpoint the exact reason for their pain — this is where confusion comes in.


In addition, the treatment options have become controversial as well. Often times, due to the level of pain a patient is experiencing, opioids are prescribed simply because they are effective painkillers. However, opioid abuse has become somewhat of an epidemic in America. Changes in health care options, dosages, and treatment plans leave many individuals in a nasty spot. They can become addicted to their medication, which can undoubtedly lead to a much larger issue.


Chronic Pain


If you or someone you know is experiencing chronic pain, you’re not alone. Chronic pain in America is a widespread issue. Over 100 million Americans have chronic or persistent pain. In fact, six out of every ten individuals experience pain that severely impacts their qualify of life. Back pain in particular is the the leading cause of disability in individuals 45 years of age or younger. Others, about fifteen percent of sufferers, report their pain comes from headaches or neck pain. This pain isn’t something that can usually be dealt with alone or simply ignored. Eighty-six percent of sufferers reported that they cannot sleep because of the amount of pain they are in. Another 70 percent say that they cannot concentrate and it’s hard to complete simple tasks because of their pain. Fifty-nine percent say that their overall enjoyment of life has been impacted because they are in so much discomfort.


What’s more, the causes of chronic pain in patients isn’t always something that can be quickly pinpointed. Some individuals may show external signs that point to a clear source of the condition, but others simply do not. Chronic pain can be linked to many parts of the body. It doesn’t only cover an obvious physical injury or impairment, it could be linked to a mental issue or possibly nerve damage, which can’t be seen by the naked eye.


What people must understand about chronic pain, is that it is an authentic medical issue. Every patient’s case is different from the next, but the individual’s pain is real nonetheless. As we discussed, individuals who are not suffering from the condition may believe that the pain is all in the patient’s mind. It’s hard to believe that something is real if we aren’t able to physically see it with our eyes, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Chronic pain treatment goes far beyond “mind over matter”. These individuals must receive treatment of some kind in order to begin to live a fulfilled and comfortable life. Treatment doesn’t only come in the form of medication. Many individuals practice low impact exercises in order to help give their bodies long-term relief. Many patients are simply not able to feel relief from medication alone.


Common Treatments


Opioids are painkillers that are often prescribed to individuals with chronic pain. They include a large range of medications that can start at a somewhat low dosage and increase to a very strong one. Medications like oxycodone or hydrocodone are quite common prescriptions for physical injuries, surgery recovery, and chronic pain issues. However, abuse of these medications can happen quickly, almost without the patient even knowing that they’re abusing it. The individual is simply looking for some relief.


It’s not uncommon for sufferers of chronic pain to ignore the signs of a deeper issue. Patients will often ignore the condition because friends and family tell them that the issue isn’t real, because it cannot be seen. As a result, these victims may turn to self medication in order to stifle the intense pain that they feel each day. This opens up a much larger issue, which leads to addiction. More than 200,000 cases of opioid addiction are reported each year. Of course, that doesn’t count the individuals who do not come forward with their problem.


As a result, in 2014 alone, more than 28,000 individuals died from opioid overdose. This is commonly due to an increase in medication or self-medicating. What happens is, individuals begin taking pain killers in order to relieve some of their pain, and after some time the body becomes dependent on the pills and gets used to their effects. So, when a patient takes one pill, it doesn’t affect them in the way it once did. Then, the individual feels that they must take more medication in order to combat the extreme pain they are experiencing. From there the issue escalates and can lead to issues like unintentional overdosing.


If you or anyone you know is experiencing chronic pain, please go talk to your doctor. If you have been treated for chronic pain, but your medication seems to no longer help the way it once did, please see your doctor. The best way to be treated before something negative happens, is to be open with your physician about what kinds of struggles you’re having with your treatment plan. The more we talk about this issue as a society, the more knowledge we can pass along to others. We can save lives if we simply treat chronic pain like the serious illness that it truly is.

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