Reasons for Prescription Drug Abuse in Chronic Pain Management

One of the most frequent questions I get at my trainings is “what are the major reasons people abuse their pain medication?”  In my opinion under-treated (or mis-treated) or mis-diagnosed pain is right up there, especially when we’re talking about a chronic pain condition.  For many of the chronic pain patients I’ve worked with, either they or their doctors were too afraid to prescribe opiate medication—opioid-phobia—or they wouldn’t prescribe a high enough dose.

Now I know caution must be used when prescribing this type of medication, especially for someone with a history, or family history, of alcoholism or other addiction.  But even for this population under-medicating my actually cause more damage bio-psycho-socially than using the medication, and for someone in addiction recovery it could lead to a relapse.

A big reason other chronic pain patients eventually get in trouble is due to too conservative treatment and being able to access effective pain management interventions.  For example many of the injured workers who were on Workers Compensation Coverage weren’t given adequate treatment early on.  In fact many times relatively inexpensive treatments were denied and later on it cost much more in the long run.

Another big reason people develop substance use disorders when taking pain medication is they don’t do anything else for pain management.  They become passive pill-taking recipients instead of proactive participants in their pain management.  Most of the research on best practice treatment for chronic pain recommends an integrated multidisciplinary approach—treating the whole person.  Unfortunately, due to HMOs Managed Care and lack of insurance, pills are often the quick fix.

Some people abuse their pain medication because they don’t know any better.  Today many pain management specialists take precautions to educate their patients when they are going to be prescribed opiate medications.  Part of this education includes information about drug-interactions.  For example many people still drink alcohol even when the medication label gives a warning.  In fact some people see a warning such as “Alcohol may intensify the effects” as an indication that drinking with the medication will give them better pain management.  They don’t realize the synergistic effect on the liver and how the medication is not being metabolized like it should be.  This can be lethal.

The best way to help people not abuse pain medication is to help them access safe and effective pain management and educate them about how to use pain medications when they are a necessary component of treatment.  In APM™ Module Four: A Guide for Managing Pain Medication in Recovery you can learn to explore how you can use pain medication using a recovery oriented approach.

In APM Module Four you can look at some misunderstood terms, then you will be asked to list the benefits and disadvantages of using pain medication. Next you’ll write your pain history story and then be shown how to develop your own effective pain medication management plan. The final step is to review a Recovery/Relapse Indicator Checklist and complete a final call to action.


For a brief overview of some of the information in this module please check out my article Managing Pain Medication in Recovery that you can download for free on our Ariticles page. To purchase APM™ Module Four please Click Here.

For an additional resource regarding medication management please go to our Publications page and check out my Addiction-Free Pain Management® Module Two: Examining Your Potential Medication Management Problems. To purchase this module please Click Here.

To learn about two skill trainings coming up in Sacramento California designed to teach treatment strategies for people living with chronic pain and coexisting disorders including disorders including addiction please Click Here.

To read the latest issue of Chronic Pain Solutions Newsletter please Click here. If you want to sign up for the newsletter, please Click here and input your name and email address. You will then recieve an autoresponse email that you need to reply to in order to finalize enrollment.

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