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Chronic Pain May Make Opioid Use Disorder Worse

Researchers following the data for people with fibromyalgia and opioid use disorder found that people with chronic pain may have more challenges when staying sober.

Chronic Pain and Opioid Exposure

Many people first use opioids to treat pain. Physical pain can significantly contribute to the development of opioid use disorder. Opioids are commonly prescribed to manage chronic pain; over time, people may develop a tolerance to the medication. They may require higher doses to achieve the same pain relief. As a result, individuals may become physically dependent on opioids, which can lead to opioid use disorder.

Most people’s first exposure to opioids is through an illness or injury where a doctor prescribes drugs like Percocet or Oxycontin.

Chronic Illness and Opioid Misuse

Chronic pain can increase the risk of addiction, overdose, and other adverse effects.

There is also a chance for misuse. If a person feels their current dosage isn’t helping enough, they may begin to use more than prescribed. The same may be true if they like the side effects – i.e., the sense of elation and high – and want to get more of that feeling. People with chronic pain may take higher doses of opioids to manage their pain, which can increase the risk of overdose. Chronic illnesses can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, increasing the risk of opioid use disorder.

Furthermore, chronic pain may lead to a cycle of pain and opioid use, which can be challenging to break. Opioids can provide temporary pain relief but do not address the underlying causes of chronic pain. Over time, this can lead to a cycle of increased opioid use to manage pain, which can lead to further pain and disability.

Fibromyalgia, Opioids, and Relapse

Research shows that people with fibromyalgia, a painful disease, are also at more risk for relapse. This may be because the person is not experiencing adequate pain relief from alternative therapies. It could also be because correlated conditions, such as depression or loneliness, are not addressed adequately. People with chronic illnesses who are in recovery need to feel connected to the community, even with a disability.

“Many of the brain pathways and chemicals believed to be involved in fibromyalgia are also involved in opioid addiction. This overlap made us suspect fibromyalgia might worsen OUD. It’s sort of a double hit hypothesis,” said Dr. O. Trent Hall, lead author and an addiction medicine physician, about the research into chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and fibromyalgia, who works in Ohio State’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.

Future Research in Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can make opioid use disorder worse by increasing the risk of addiction, overdose, and other adverse effects. It can also lead to a cycle of pain and opioid use, which can be difficult to break without appropriate treatment and management of chronic pain.

When diseases are closely related to addiction, there will be more understanding of brain chemistry and how to battle opioid use disorder in the future. All information on opioid use, misuse, and healthcare can help bring the addiction community closer to science-backed answers.