Pain Management

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pain-managementThere are many useful holistic treatment methods which can go hand-in-hand with more commonly accepted approaches to addiction recovery. Pain management for addiction recovery, while not necessarily outside of the common medical purview, is nevertheless often considered to be a complimentary therapy to other psychological and pharmacological treatment methods.

Traditional methods of addiction therapy place more of an emphasis on achieving and maintaining abstinence than on paying attention to the physical pain that an addict may be experiencing. Appropriate pain management, however, can be very important for preventing relapse, improving quality of life, increasing patient confidence in the medical system, decreasing the amount and length of hospital stays, and enhancing overall treatment success.

Preventing pain for patients is a top priority for doctors, but treating the up to 17% of patients who also struggle with substance use disorder is often considered challenging. Addicts who also require pain relief are not as likely to receive adequate pain management because of concerns that pain medication might be misused or diverted.

Principles of Effective Pain Management

In order to provide effective pain management for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics from all walks of life, practitioners strive to follow a couple of basic guidelines.

  1. The chosen strategy for pain management must be effective enough to actually provide relief from the pain. Choosing weaker medications in an effort to prevent a new addiction can quickly lead patients to turn to other methods of self medication, precipitating relapse.
  2.  If needed, pain management therapies should be provided around the clock. In some situations, allowing the use of pain killers only on an as-needed basis can cause the pain to escalate between doses, ultimately requiring more medication and increasing levels of discomfort.

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Opioid Addiction and Chronic Pain opioid-addiction-and-chronic-pain

One of the main applications of pain management for addiction treatment is during the opioid detox and maintenance process. Addicts who are recovering from opioid abuse are often maintained on a daily dose of methadone or other opioid agonists. While these drugs can help reduce cravings, they are often not enough by themselves to also offer adequate pain relief. A common method for managing pain while on opioid maintenance is to prescribe additional opioids to help patients manage their pain and keep from turning to illicit drugs.

Physicians often express concerns that prescribing opioid analgesics to a recovering opioid addict may cause a relapse into addiction. While caution is definitely needed when providing care during drug addiction therapy, research has shown that relapse rates do not increase when proper and carefully monitored pain management strategies are implemented. Alleviating pain effectively actually leads to positive outcomes, as it allows patients to focus more on recovery.

The American Society for Pain Management Nursing holds a position statement that patients who are suffering from both pain and substance abuse have the right to be treated with dignity and to be offered the same quality of pain management as is given to other patients who require treatment for pain. Pain management is an important component of effective medical care for addicts and non-addicts alike.


  1. Prater, C. D., Zylstra, R. G., & Miller, K. E. (2002). Successful Pain Management for the Recovering Addicted Patient. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from Voon, P., Callon, C., Nguyen, P., Dobrer, S., Montaner, J., Wood, E., & Kerr, T. (2014, January). Self-management of pain among people who inject drugs in Vancouver. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from

    Savage, S. R., Kirsh, K. L., & Passik, S. D. (2008, June). Challenges in Using Opioids to Treat Pain in Persons With Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from

    Oliver, J., Coggins, C., Compton, P., Hagan, S., Matteliano, D., Stanton, M., . . . Turner, H. N. (2012, September). American Society for Pain Management Nursing Position Statement: Pain Management in Patients with Substance Use Disorders. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from
    Voon, P., Callon, C., Nguyen, P., Dobrer, S., Montaner, J., Wood, E., & Kerr, T. (2014, January). Self-management of pain among people who inject drugs in Vancouver. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from


Last updated on April 6th, 2017 at 05:57 pm

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