When Opioid Painkillers Make Chronic Pain Worse

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Pain is something that we all experience. There are different types and levels of pain based on the injury or illness, but we know the discomfort is there to tell us something is wrong. However, chronic pain is a bit different. With chronic pain, your body can hurt for months or years with no clear reason as to why. Because this pain is invisible, it’s often isolating. Sadly, many people with chronic pain are treated with opioids, and this ends up making the pain worse. Perhaps you've heard about the paradox of heightened pain sensitivity with opioid use. This has been studied since the 1800s, when an English physician reported that morphine encouraged the very pain it was meant to treat. Let’s learn more about why opioid painkillers are ineffective when treating chronic pain and why a trauma treatment center is best.

Painkillers increase sensitivity to pain.

In the U.S., we’ve been taught to think that a pill is the answer to feeling better. Whether it’s a headache, indigestion or the flu, there are pills to treat our symptoms. Sometimes, these pills can help us feel better. Other times, alternative, non-drug methods are just as effective. Opioids are usually safe when used for something short-term and specific, such as controlling pain after surgery. However, after a few weeks, their effectiveness wears off and can make pain worse. Here’s why. When you take an opioid, it blocks the pain receptors in the brain. As a result, the brain produces more receptors to get the pain signal through. When the opioid wears off, you feel more pain. Also, when you take opioids longer than needed, your ability to produce endorphins (natural painkillers) is decreased. This makes it harder to control pain on your own.

Opioids don’t address underlying trauma.

Chronic pain is often a mix of emotional pain and physical pain. They affect the same part of the brain, so it’s difficult for the brain to separate the two. Unless both types of pain are treated, only partial relief can be achieved. Of course, opioids will not work for emotional pain. In fact, they can cover up feelings and make you numb to pain and suffering. If you don’t address the underlying source of trauma, your body may feel in a constant state of attack. This can lead to anxiety, depression and sleep problems.

Dual diagnosis treatment in Agoura addresses trauma and opioid abuse.

Awakenings Treatment Center works with individuals who are learning to live with chronic pain while recovering from opioid addiction. It’s a difficult path to endure and an ongoing progress. But, we are pleased to say that our science-based treatments, concierge services and individualized counseling sessions are helpful in treating our clients’ mental, physical and spiritual health. Contact us today to learn more about being part of our trauma treatment center.