Unfortunately, many people with opiate use disorders have comorbid chronic pain issues. For some, the chronic pain preceded the addiction and opiates became a tool for self-medication. With others, the chronic pain issues resulted from injuries sustained in active addiction that were not properly dealt with due to neglect or financial concerns. Regardless of which issue came first, both the chronic pain and the addiction must be dealt with simultaneously in order for a person to have a successful long-term recovery.
Dealing with Chronic Pain
To address your chronic pain, start by seeing your primary care physician. If you don’t currently have a primary care physician, it’s important to establish a relationship with one, as they will be the first step in properly addressing your chronic pain issues. If they do not know your situation, explain it in full to them, highlighting your desire to avoid treating the pain with opiates.
Your doctor will be able to point you in the direction of other medical professionals that can help you on your recovery from chronic pain. Some of these professionals may include specialists, physical therapists, and chiropractors. Your doctor may also suggest holistic therapies to address your chronic pain, such as acupuncture or yoga. It’s important to make sure all of your medical professionals are aware of your substance use history so that they do not prescribe you narcotics that could jeopardize your recovery.
Dealing with Substance Abuse
To begin addressing your substance use disorder, contact a counseling agency that specializes in these issues for an intake evaluation. During your evaluation, a trained substance abuse counselor will determine which level of care is best for you based on your current substance use patterns. Once enrolled in a treatment program, you will be able to address underlying issues that contribute to your substance use disorder. This time may also help treat any other co-occurring disorders you may be suffering from as well.
You’ll also learn coping skills to address any triggers that may jeopardize your recovery. These coping skills are what will help you continue down the path of recovery long after your treatment sessions. Finding a recovery community during this time will help keep you accountable for months and even years after. Make sure to sign a release of information with all of your treatment providers so that your counselors and anyone else involved in your substance use disorder recovery can communicate with your chronic pain recovery team.
Article Written by Shaylyn Forte, LPC, CAADC