Chronic Pain and Addiction

Chronic Pain and Addiction is the ninth in a series of ten articles from the book Pain Management by Robert Hoffman.

Chronic Pain May Lead to Substance Abuse and Addiction

Pain is one of the hardest things to live with, especially when it is persistent. Chronic pain makes you persistently uncomfortable and limited in your activities, which can lead to other problems, including emotional health issues.

It prevents you from doing physical work or makes it painful to do so. It hinders your day-to-day activities, causes sleep disturbances, and reduces your range of recreational activity. Chronic pain prevents you from enjoying life in general.

It is no wonder that many people who find it difficult to cope with chronic pain develop substance abuse and addiction. Some people can manage their pain without being dependent on medications, but many have a harder time with it.

How People Can Develop Substance Abuse and Addiction

Painkillers, such as opioids, are one of the most abused drugs related to chronic pain. Studies have shown that many substance abuse and addiction cases stem from the treatment of chronic pain. When patients don’t feel relief from their current medications, they tend to increase the dosage to get their desired results.

Developing a Tolerance to Drugs

Over time, however, they will very likely develop tolerance to pain relief drugs, which means they need to increase their intake further to get the relief that they need, and previously felt. This results in a cycle of dependency that can be very hard to break away from.

Some people also resort to a quick fix to deal with their chronic pain, such as alcohol and illegal drugs. Unfortunately, their analgesic effects are very brief, but their own side-effects are longer-lasting. They are also very habit-forming and lead to a range of physical and mental health problems.

Commonly Abused Chronic Pain Drugs And Substances

Among the drugs and substances that are usually abused are:


About 50 million Americans experience chronic pain, and opioids are the commonly prescribed medication to treat the pain. They are also the most commonly abused pain relief drugs. Opioids supply dopamine to the brain, which provides a temporary feel-good sensation, relieving pain.


Many states in America have legalized the use of marijuana for recreational and medical purposes, given its many health benefits. However, marijuana is rich in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a cannabis compound that is responsible for the “high” feeling when taken in high dosage. Due to the euphoric feeling that users can get from using marijuana, it is also prone to abuse and addiction.


Alcohol can provide temporary pain relief because it is analgesic and anesthetic. That’s why it is often used as a quick fix to relieve physical and emotional pain. Abuse happens when people start to go beyond the guidelines of moderate drinking, which is a maximum of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.


Tobacco contains nicotine, which has analgesic properties that can relieve acute pain. Unfortunately, prolonged use of tobacco can actually lead to chronic pain, worsening the pain intensity rather than relieving it. Even so, tobacco use is still common among people who experience chronic pain, and it is one of the leading causes of premature death all over the world.

Stimulants and Central Nervous Systems (CNS) Depressants

Stimulants used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, and CNS depressants for anxiety and sleep disorders have analgesic properties. Stimulants and CNS depressants, especially when combined with pain medications, are also prone to abuse and addiction.

Signs Of Substance Abuse and Addiction

While many patients who experience chronic pain lose control over their pain drugs use even though they are aware of the negative effects, recognizing the warning signs of abuse can make a big difference.

Some of the symptoms of substance abuse and addiction are:

  • Larger doses of drugs or substances needed to achieve the desired pain relief
  • Mood and personality changes
  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Poor hygiene
  • Neglect of responsibilities at work and at home

Treatment Of Substance Abuse and Addiction

If you recognize the signs of substance abuse and addiction, it is time to seek professional help. The use of pain drugs and other substances beyond the prescribed doses can be life-threatening, which is why it is crucial to address it as early as possible.

When related to chronic pain, treatments for substance abuse and addiction also requires pain management using non-addictive drugs or methods. These include exercise, lifestyle changes, proper diet, acupuncture, meditation, behavioral therapy, and psychotherapy, among others.

Get Help

Chronic pain is a challenging condition to deal with, and it is unfortunately too easy to become dependent on medications and other substances when seeking relief. It is vitally important to recognize the dangers of abuse and addiction. With the help of professionals, you can prevent them, while also finding alternative pain management methods.

Bob Hoffman

Great Past 60

Hoffman Media Marketing

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