Opioids: What are the alternatives?

Opioid Alternatives for the Recovering Addict

Michelle Rosenker

August 15, 2019

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. This number represents a whopping 20 percent of the country’s entire population who are experiencing conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic back pain caused by another existing issue. Neuropathy, meanwhile, keeps people tossing and turning throughout the night, avoiding long car rides, staying home, and tied to one or more medications that provide relief. Chronic pain can be taxing not only on the body, but on the spirit as well.

In addition to those 50 million Americans are millions more who are exposed to pain via surgical procedure, an acute health problem, or having a baby. At the time of the painful events in these individuals’ lives, pain medication serves as the front-and-center of their course of care.

This is nothing new, as opioid-based medications have been used to treat pain for centuries. However, when the patient is in recovery from addiction, whether in need of pain management for an acute or chronic issue, things can grow more complex.

Addict or not, nobody wants to be in pain. This is evidenced by the opioid crisis that the United States is facing today, where nearly three million people are addicted to these powerfully potent substances.

Unfortunately, pain is something that cannot be avoided. At some point in life, everyone is going to experience it. Fortunately, those who are in recovery from drug addiction have options that can preserve their sobriety and address their pain management needs.


Pain Management Alternatives

If you are a recovering addict, the idea of needing surgery or being diagnosed with a chronic pain condition can be overwhelming. Your first thoughts might go to how you are going to manage physical pain, and your second thoughts might be filled with anxiety or fear surrounding that management.

In some instances, opioid-based medications cannot be avoided (think a major motor vehicle accident that has caused several broken bones and the need for numerous surgeries). When that’s the case, there are options for recovering addicts, including entrusting their medication to a loved one who can properly administer their dose to them to prevent abuse.

However, if you need to manage pain without opioids, it is imperative you know what your options are.

Medicinal options:

  • Anticonvulsant medications. Many prescription medications are used for off label purposes, and anticonvulsant medications are no different. Common anticonvulsants, including gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica), have proven to help treat nerve pain caused by conditions like fibromyalgia. Other anticonvulsants, such as topiramate, have also aided in pain management for similar conditions, however they have not provided any solid proof of effectiveness like other anticonvulsants have.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, have long been used to treat conditions like osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic headaches/migraines. Aleve, Bayer, Motrin, and Celebrex are some of the most common NSAIDs and can offer relief to recovering addicts who are attempting to manage these and other conditions.
  • SNRIs, which is short for serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, has also proven to treat certain chronic pain conditions just as anticonvulsant medications have.

Holistic options:

  • Having been around for centuries upon centuries, acupuncture still remains one of the top choices for pain management treatment. Done completely holistically and without any medications at all, acupuncture is one of the best forms of pain relief. It is also a highly regarded practice in the treatment of addiction, so many who are in recovery are already familiar with acupuncture.
  • Geared towards those with back pain, chiropractic methods can help alleviate pain in someone who is not looking to take opioid pain medication. Not only does chiropractic work help back issues, but it also helps promote good overall health as aligning the spine has proven to benefit several other areas of the body including the muscles and gut.
  • Managing pain can be done through participating in regular yoga sessions, but for recovering addicts, yoga doubles as a physical and mental form of treatment. While receiving the physical benefits of yoga, recovering addicts can also benefit from the mental reprieve that it provides.

Learning to deal with pain without using opioids can be difficult, but for the recovering addict, there is no other way. Each of these options is beneficial on its own, but each one can be combined to help make a difference in one’s comfort level.

Getting Help for Pain While in Recovery

If you are in recovery from addiction and need pain management, the best and most important thing you can do is speak to your provider about your recovery. Maintaining open and honest lines of communication regarding your history of abuse will enable your provider to treat you to the best of his or her abilities.

Also, staying open to the idea of managing your pain with more than one technique can help you build a comprehensive plan of care that not only treats your pain appropriately, but also keeps you comfortable.

With the opioid crisis in full swing, there are now more non-opioid pain management treatments available than ever before. Reaching out and speaking with your provider can help you start treating your pain in a healthy, sustainable way.

Start Your Recovery From Addiction Today With JourneyPure

If you think you or someone you love could benefit from outpatient rehab, JourneyPure can help. Our treatment programs in Elizabethtown, including Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder, can help you or a loved one overcome addiction in a safe and private setting.

Start your road to recovery now. Call us today for a private consultation to learn more.