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Individuals prescribed painkillers to manage acute or chronic pain have an increased risk of developing substance use disorders (SUDs). Some of the most common prescription painkillers are opioids. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “[A]bout 80 percent of people who used heroin first misused prescription opioids.” Treatment can be more challenging for individuals with chronic conditions because they still need medical assistance to cope with severe pain or disability. Often treatment for these types of SUDs requires the program participant to slowly taper off the substance, which is replaced with a less addictive alternative. 

The Different Types of Pain Relief Medication 

Most drugs for treating chronic pain are highly regulated due to their addictive potential. The most common types are: 

  • Prescription opioids, including codeine and morphine
  • Synthetic opioids like fentanyl 
  • Illegal opioids like heroin 

Chronic and acute pain can cause disability and decrease quality of life. For individuals in recovery from SUDs involving painkillers, it can be challenging to find a prescription that helps with the pain without reintroducing the potential for addiction. The dedicated clinicians at Crescent Moon Recovery collaborate with participants to set recovery goals and create a treatment plan that addresses issues related to chronic conditions. 

Signs of Painkiller Addiction 

Not everyone knows what prescription misuse looks like in everyday life. Many people are unaware they have misused their prescription painkillers in a way that can lead to addictive behaviors. Some common signs of prescription misuse include: 

  • Using medications in any manner not prescribed, such as increasing dosage without consulting your doctor or taking them for longer than recommended 
  • Hoarding medication and “doctor shopping” to get multiple prescriptions and avoid running low 
  • Being unable to control your use of the drug and being preoccupied with thinking about the substance 
  • Relationship, work, or legal issues 
  • Financial strain 
  • The drug’s effectiveness decreases over time

Not everyone who misuses pain relief medication or illicit opioids will develop a substance use disorder. However, the likelihood is very high, and being aware of the warning signs can allow you to intervene on behalf of a loved one or reach out for help if you notice these warning signs in your own life. 

How Are Painkillers Misused? 

Misuse of painkillers usually occurs after the individual prescribed the medication develops a tolerance. Maintaining the same level of relief takes more of the drug, potentially leading to addiction. Unfortunately, many painkillers are overprescribed or prescribed longer than recommended, increasing the risk of developing a SUD. The most common reasons people misuse painkillers include: 

  • Symptom management for chronic conditions
  • Recreational use 
  • Self-medicating symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders 
  • Peer pressure 

Sometimes, pain medication or illegal opioids are mixed with alcohol or other drugs to enhance the effects. Adverse reactions often lead to worsening symptoms and long-term health issues. 

The Physical and Mental Side Effects

Painkiller abuse can cause severe adverse reactions, including coma and death. The risk of dangerous side effects increases if more than one substance is misused. Unfortunately, painkillers are often mixed with alcohol and other drugs, which is extremely dangerous. The most common physical and mental side effects of SUDs involving painkillers include: 

  • Headache, nausea, and flu-like symptoms 
  • Dizziness and coordination issues 
  • Weakened immune system 
  • Memory issues 
  • Depression 
  • Apathy 
  • Mood swings and changes in behavior 
  • Sleep disturbances 

The symptoms can last throughout detox and withdrawal and may linger during continuing recovery for some individuals. When mixed with other substances like alcohol, painkillers can lead to very shallow breathing and hypoxia. According to research published in Neuropharmacology, pain relief medication like “opioid drugs used at higher doses have a number of side effects, including . . . respiratory depression,” which is “especially dangerous, being primarily responsible for the development of acute brain hypoxia, coma, and lethality following an overdose of these drugs.” Hypoxia increases the risk of permanent cognitive dysfunction or disability. 

Coping With Chronic Pain 

Chronic pain impacts every area of life, and Crescent Moon Recovery provides resources and alternative treatments to relieve pain and discomfort caused by chronic conditions. Learning to cope with chronic pain is not easy, but the results include a better quality of life and less severe symptoms for some individuals. While undergoing rehabilitation treatment at Crescent Moon Recovery, you will have access to the following: 

  • Peer support and group therapy where you can learn how others cope with chronic conditions
  • Individual therapy where you will learn helpful tools like mindfulness, breathwork, cognitive reframing, and behavioral modification techniques
  • Community events and activities that encourage healing and provide social support 
  • Non-traditional treatments like acupuncture, meditation, and relaxation techniques

Research has shown that chronic physical pain decreases with improvements in mental health. In addition, alternative therapies can provide noticeable pain relief. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), “Studies have shown that music can reduce self-reported pain and depression symptoms in people with chronic pain.” Crescent Moon Recovery offers art and music therapy as part of our holistic approach to treatment. 

Common Co-Occurring Disorders 

Substance use disorders involving painkillers are more likely to co-occur with trauma-related mental health disorders and chronic or acute physical discomfort. The most common dual diagnosis include: 

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) 
  • Depression 
  • Physical pain due to injury or illness 
  • Cancer 
  • Arthritis 
  • Various back pains 

Some co-occurring disorders require additional outside treatment during rehabilitation. Our team will work with you to make necessary accommodations to keep you safe and healthy while maintaining your sobriety. 

Treatment for Substance Use Disorder and Dual Diagnosis 

Several evidence-based alternative treatments are available to decrease the amount of physical and emotional distress you experience during treatment and recovery. According to the NCCIH, “A growing body of evidence suggests that some complementary approaches, such as acupuncture, hypnosis, massage, mindfulness meditation, spinal manipulation, tai chi, and yoga, may help to manage some painful conditions.” Crescent Moon Recovery offers the following alternative options: 

  • Art and music therapy to reduce stress
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to improve coping skills
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) 
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Acupuncture

The therapies we provide are intended to provide insight into the connections between unconscious processes and physical reactions. The treatment methods we use will give you a foundation of healthy coping techniques to use during ongoing recovery for managing chronic symptoms. 

Benefits of Holistic Therapies and Treatments 

We offer holistic care to ensure the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of program participants. Our clinicians collaborate with individuals in treatment to ensure we meet all of their needs and accommodate any cultural, religious, or personal beliefs and preferences. 

Trauma therapy is an essential part of holistic treatment for many individuals attending programs at Crescent Moon Recovery. We ensure that all of our program warriors participate in individual and group therapy sessions to meet their recovery goals and prepare them for maintaining sobriety once they complete the program. 

Primary benefits of our holistic treatment include: 

  • Better treatment outcomes 
  • More engaged peer groups 
  • Decreased risk of relapse 
  • Lower stress levels 
  • Fewer symptoms related to mood disorders like anxiety and depression 

In addition to providing alternative options for treating mental health disorders, we also help participants manage symptoms of chronic pain and physical disability. 

Transitioning to Alternative Pain Medication 

We offer several medication-assisted treatment (MAT) options for individuals who require some form of pain relief to function day-to-day. The MAT we offer includes the following:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Naltrexone
  • Buprenorphine 

Replacing one pain-relieving medication with another usually involves slowly tapering off the original substance and replacing it incrementally with a less addictive substitute. Doing this decreases the severity of detox symptoms and lowers the risk of relapse. For some program participants, the length of their treatment may be extended to ensure a smooth transition.

Changing from one pain relief medication to another comes with its own challenges. You can learn more by talking with a medical professional or reaching out to our office. No matter where you are in your recovery journey, we can help you succeed at achieving and maintaining sobriety. 

The Importance of Personalized Treatments During Recovery

The personalized treatment we offer provides the best outcomes for individuals undergoing rehabilitation for SUDs involving painkillers. According to Behavioral Sciences, “One of the most challenging aspects of all chronic diseases is that even when treated, recovery can take a long time and require systems of care to sustain long-term health and avoid relapse [which] is especially true in the case of SUDs.” 

By providing our program participants with tailored treatment and aftercare plans, we make it easier for them to focus on daily goals and healing. Personalized treatment ensures our program participants have reduced lengths of stay and faster end-goal results. Participants are also included in all aspects of the decision-making process. Our team ensures that all active disorders are addressed during rehabilitation, and preventative education is provided for potential issues before they develop. 

Living With Permanent Disabilities

Permanent disabilities caused by substance misuse or underlying health issues require continuing care to ensure healthy symptom management and relapse prevention. The dedicated team at Crescent Moon Recovery uses evidence-based treatments to provide a framework for recovery. A few ways we help you prepare for ongoing recovery and aftercare include: 

  • Using holistic care to ensure your mental, emotional, and spiritual health 
  • Utilizing MAT as needed
  • Introducing self-care into your daily routine 
  • Providing recovery resources for individuals with disabilities 
  • Ensuring you have access to support services during treatment and continuing care 
  • Teaching life skills and healthy coping techniques 

At Crescent Moon Recovery, we celebrate diversity and use every opportunity to empower our program participants. Living with chronic pain and other disabilities should not limit your access to high-quality services and resources. Call our admissions office today to find out more about current accommodations. 

Aftercare Services and Relapse Prevention

Crescent Moon Recovery offers a range of aftercare services to ensure that all our program participants have access to the support they need to continue to thrive and heal after completing treatment. You will collaborate with the clinical team and your case manager to develop a strategy for continuing care and relapse prevention. Some of our services include: 

  • Referrals to doctor offices, therapists, and pain relief centers 
  • Access to our alumni services 
  • Information on local community-based support groups and recovery advocacy programs 
  • Information on housing, financial, or job placement support services 
  • Referrals to sober living communities or other recovery programs 

The effects of painkiller misuse can linger. In addition to joining 12-Step or other self-help groups related to SUD, some people find it helpful to attend support groups for co-occurring conditions. Most cities have self-help groups for individuals suffering from disabilities and chronic pain. 

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Get Help Today! 

Crescent Moon Recovery offers a wide range of personalized evidence-based treatments for substance use disorders involving prescription pain relievers. To find out more about our programs or set up an admissions interview, call our office today at (714) 464-8474.

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