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New Non-Med Pain Management Therapy Being Studied

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Pain Management “These results highlight the need for addiction treatment programs to offer a multifaceted approach that doesn’t only address substance use but also the other factors that might be driving substance use, including pain,” says Mark Ilgen, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and a VA and U-M psychologist specializing in addiction research. “We’ve shown that it’s possible to improve pain outcomes in people with addiction, and even have some spillover effects on their substance use.”

Related: Mindfulness Meditation Could Help Ease Chronic Pain

Pain Management Therapy

The study in veterans was planned just before the rapid rise in, and increased awareness of, opioid painkiller addiction issues in the U.S. While opioid addiction was one of the issues faced by veterans in the study, most had issues with multiple substances.

From national headlines, to the presidential campaign trail, to this blog, the impact of opioid addiction is widely reported, and the effects are staggering. It’s an issue that won’t be ignored, and there is still not permanent resolution. While every addiction story is unique, often the story begins with prescribed use, which then leads to abuse and ultimately addiction.

The problem is that these powerful drugs, while effective in treating pain, are highly addictive, and can cause long-term health problems. For those addicts who deal with chronic pain, this is a particularly thorny problem: they must choose to either not treat their pain medically, or relieve their pain and risk falling back into the cycle  of addiction.

One study is looking for an approach to effective pain management that combines behavioral therapy with social support, and skips the medication route altogether. So far, it is showing promise.

Mark Ilgen, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and a VA and U-M psychologist specializing in addiction research. “We’ve shown that it’s possible to improve pain outcomes in people with addiction, and even have some spillover effects on their substance use.”

What’s more, there is some evidence that long-term use of opioids can actually cause users to feel more pain.

“Long-term use of opioids can sometimes lead to a hypersensitivity to pain, so there may actually be a causal link between use of these medications and pain,” he notes. “We need to study psychological pain management approaches in opioid-dependent patients, including those receiving addiction therapies such as buprenorphine.”

In the meantime, he notes, people struggling with addiction who want to seek relief from pain should explore the full range of treatment options that have been shown to work in non-addicted patients, including physical therapy, exercise and psychotherapy as well as antidepressant medications. And while existing prescription guidelines do not explicitly prohibit the use of opioid painkillers in people with pain who have substance use disorders, these guidelines recommend only using opioids sparingly and under close supervision, he says.




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