How Can I Manage My Pain in Recovery?

How Can I Manage My Pain in Recovery?

Achieving long-term sobriety can be immensely fulfilling, and many addiction recovery patients may be tempted to put their recovery efforts on the back burner after being in remission for extended periods. However, all the accomplishments of long-term sobriety can quickly dissipate when seeking treatment for severe and chronic pain while in recovery. As with many issues and challenges that addiction recovery patients must face, there is no easy answer to this dilemma. Trading addictions is a common enough practice when addiction recovery patients become lax in their long-term sobriety, but trading addictions when it comes to pain relief is not a surprise to those involved. The euphoric feeling from excessive pain medication re-starts old addictive behaviors and thought patterns. Patients all too often find themselves reverting to their preferred illicit substance or continuing with prescription pain relievers beyond pain control. 


Most individuals in addiction recovery are aware of the dangers of prescription pain relief. Yet, they still fall victim to the pitfalls of pain medication, triggering a relapse to substance misuse. Accidental and unexpected injuries seem to be the immediate source for resurfacing addictive disorders. Seeking pain relief for an injury winds up being a dual-edged sword for most individuals in addiction recovery. On the one hand, individuals will display caution about revealing their addictive past behaviors with doctors and abstaining from the more addictive, narcotic pain relievers like oxycontin. However, if these alternative medications fail to manage the pain, then the residual pain that patients are coping with can push them to obtain illicit drugs or alcohol to alleviate the symptoms of discomfort. People often feel the only alternative method to treat residual or chronic pain is to prescribe stronger, narcotic-based pain relievers that have an increased risk for triggering a dormant addictive disorder.


Like we mentioned previously, addiction recovery patients seem to be rolling the dice when it comes to chronic or severe pain relief, with the chances of winning favoring the house. For addiction recovery patients, the odds are not in their favor when it comes to pain relief. Those in recovery are experienced with these types of lose/lose scenarios. The addiction recovery treatments combined with years of experienced sobriety should adequately prepare individuals in addiction recovery for the challenges that await them with pain management. However, confronting medically-needed drugs through self-awareness, honesty, and preventative measures may not always be enough. These individuals will also need to know when to ask for help from their support network.


Alternative Pain Medications and Supervised Administration of Pain Medication


There are several options for alternative medicines for pain relief as long as physicians know patients’ history with addictive disorders. Tramadol is just one medication that can be prescribed for mild-to-moderate pain, but when it comes to severe pain, the options for medications that are non-addictive are somewhat limited. We would strongly suggest that addiction recovery patients should always start with a non-narcotic pain reliever. If the pain is more severe, they may want to explore the possibility of having a physician administer the pain medication. Another option would be to visit their primary care physician, who could administer some form of pain medication in person. Having a prescription that can be used at home generally will increase the risk of relapse for any individual with an addictive disorder, no matter how long they have been in remission.


These suggestions are not ideal for individuals with constant severe or chronic pain issues over longer periods. In these scenarios, you could have a partner/significant other or close member help administer the narcotic pain reliever at home. If narcotic prescription drug use is the only alternative for chronic pain, individuals in addiction recovery should also discuss an exit strategy if they find themselves relapsing. This plan should, in the least, involve a detox strategy and potentially seeking short-term inpatient treatment. Expect the best, but plan for the worst-case scenario, especially when it involves such a high-risk narcotic. 


A third last resort option for pain relief could involve medicinal marijuana to manage severe and chronic pain. This option has shown success in some candidates as far as pain relief without addictive narcotics. However, individuals in recovery will run some of the same risks of triggering relapse using marijuana as they would with narcotic pain pills. Marijuana may not have the same overriding addictive nature as oxycontin, but the familiar feeling of euphoria will still be present, increasing the risk of triggering addiction recovery patients. If you decide to explore this particular path, we would suggest it only be done with caution through both physician and therapist/psychiatrist guidance and supervision. 


Be Honest About Being in Addiction Recovery


Addiction recovery patients’ best line of defense in avoiding potential relapse when seeking relief from chronic pain will ultimately involve being honest with every doctor/physician as well as with themself. Even fully aware addiction recovery patients who share their medical history with their doctors still fall victim to being triggered into relapse while seeking relief from chronic pain with narcotic pain pills. The true strength will come in knowing when you have to ask for help again, especially for individuals who have been in long-term remission as far as sobriety is concerned.


If you or someone you love has relapsed in their addiction recovery due to seeking medical relief for chronic or severe pain, then Choice House has a variety of programs to explore to help patients get back on the path toward long-term sobriety. We understand that addiction recovery is a life-long process, and our dual-diagnosis treatment services are uniquely set up to offer men a chance to build a new, sober foundation based on love, understanding, and empathy. This sober foundation will provide participants with a solid footing in their sobriety, and better prepare them to take on the challenges and temptations of substance misuse when they re-enter their independent lifestyles. Men are afforded the chance to achieve and learn how to maintain sobriety through various services that include a 90-day inpatient program, an intensive outpatient service, and residency at our sober living campus. Given our proximity to the Rocky Mountains, we offer a unique outdoor wilderness therapy where men reconnect with themselves and fellow recovery patients through physical activities like hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing. We firmly believe that the friendships made during these activities will last a lifetime and provide the basis for starting a strong support network, a support network that will prove vital in case of injury and the increased need to seek out medical pain relief. For more information regarding Choice House facilities or addiction recovery treatment services, please give us a call at (720) 577-4422.


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