Today I want to give you an overview of what happens when someone has chronic pain and a coexisting addictive disorder. But before I get into that I want to give you some background information so you can better understand this overview. In 1996 there were about 80 million people living with chronic pain in the United States. Today, there are over 100 million people. Current research estimates that 90% of people receiving medical treatment for chronic pain are prescribed opiates. About 10% of these people develop substance use disorders. That means that today there are over 10 million people experiencing prescription drug abuse or addiction.
In 1996 I conducted research to begin developing the first clinical skills training for Addiction Free Pain Management®. What I looked for was information on people who had chronic pain and co-existing addiction. What I found was disturbing. There was nothing there! What I did find was a large amount of data on people with addiction and an abundance of information about people who had chronic pain. But I couldn’t find anything that addressed someone who suffered with both conditions. During my research I surveyed addiction and pain programs to find out what happened to these people when they tried to seek help.
What I discovered was when they went into an addiction treatment program; the entire focus was on the addictive disorder. Unfortunately, their pain was not adequately addressed. The addiction programs really struggled with what to do about the chronic pain. Now if that same person went into a pain clinic, the entire focus was on the chronic pain, the physiological pain. On the other hand, the pain clinics struggled with what to do when people were acting out with the addiction. I realized that the focus needs to be on concurrent treatment for both pain and addiction. That is why I developed the Addiction Free Pain Management® System so treatment providers can learn how to effectively deal with both conditions concurrently.
What I also uncovered during my research, was that when the person had both conditions, there was an amplification, or a synergism, of their symptoms present that I coined the Addiction Pain Syndrome™. This syndrome has three zones—the addictive disorder zone, the pain disorder zone and a third zone I’ll discuss a little later.
The addictive disorder zone contains all the symptoms, problems, or consequences people experience when living with addiction. Someone in the pain disorder zone has a different set of problems, symptoms, or consequences. When a person has both conditions a synergistic effect happens and now we have the third zone the addiction pain syndrome zone.
The problem is that if the person goes into an addiction program 1/3 of the problem is dealt with and if they go to a pain clinic a different 1/3 of the problem is covered. Many of these programs cross-refer; which is great because now we are treating 2/3 of the problem. I developed the Addiction Free Pain Management System to treat all three zones concurrently using a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach.
To learn more about chronic pain management please check out our website at www.addiction-free.com and go to our Publications page and check out my latest book The Addiction-Free Pain Management® Recovery Guide: Second Edition. If you want to learn more about the Addiction Pain Syndrome™ you can find my article Understanding the Addiction Pain Syndrome™ that you can download for free on our Ariticles page.
To check out our July Chronic Pain Solutions Newsletter please click here.