When you’re in recovery for opioid addiction, pain management can be a tricky issue. Usually, chronic pain is what led to substance abuse or addiction in the first place. Given the opioid addiction crisis that’s going on in the United States, all consumers should know that non-narcotic pain medicine is available. This is especially important for those in recovery. So, what non-opioid painkillers are out there?
Non-opiate painkillers for addicts
First, it’s important to know that doctors classify pain into two major categories: acute and chronic. Acute pain comes on suddenly, lasts no more than three to six months, and is usually associated with an underlying cause. Once the underlying cause is addressed, the pain subsides. Examples of acute pain include childbirth, surgery, or broken bones.
By contrast, chronic pain lingers for more than six months, even when the original injury that caused the pain has healed. Fibromyalgia, cancer, nerve injury or arthritis are all conditions that can cause chronic pain. According to a recent report released by the CDC, 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. It’s estimated that more than 130 Americans die every day from accidental opioid overdose.
Secondly, it’s also important to understand why opioids are so addictive. Opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone release endorphins, activating the reward center in your brain. Over a short period of time, you’ll need more to accomplish the same result. This is how people can easily become addicted even while taking their medication as prescribed. Research shows that taking opioids for longer than a few days increases the risk of long-term use, which, in turn, significantly increases the risk of addiction.
If you or a loved one is in recovery from addiction to painkillers or other substances, it’s very important to proceed with caution when managing pain. Luckily, there are alternatives that are proven just as effective when managing acute or chronic pain.
Acetaminophen, more commonly known as its brand name Tylenol, can be used on its own or in combination with other drugs to treat pain. It works especially well for patients with arthritis, cancer-related pain or headaches, and should be avoided by patients with liver problems.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
This class of drug includes aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil), and naproxen (Aleve). NSAIDs are sold over the counter and available via prescription. Recent studies have shown that NSAIDs are just as effective as opioids for relieving pain symptoms, with much less risk of addiction.
While some forms of muscle relaxants can be addictive, there are many newer options available that are safe for recovering addicts. Methocarbamol (Robaxin), Metaxalone (Skelaxin), and Tizanidine (Zanaflex) are three examples of non-habit-forming medicines that reduce muscle tension and spasms, providing great relief for many.
Alternative medications for pain management
There are several alternative kinds of medicine that can treat chronic pain.
Various anti-seizure/anti-convulsant medications and antidepressants can treat pain that begins in the spinal cord, including migraines.
Various serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) have been proven safe and effective for chronic pain. Brand names include Cymbalta (an SNRI), Elavil and Tofranil (both TCA).
While most severe pain sufferers will need to turn to some sort of medication to manage their symptoms, non-medication treatments can be helpful as well.
These treatments can help alleviate less severe pain or can be used in addition to medications. Vitamins, herbal treatments, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, massage, yoga, cognitive behavioral therapy, and acupuncture are all examples of non-traditional pain management. These can also be helpful in maintaining sobriety.
Treatment for opioid dependence and addiction
Of course, the first step is getting treatment. If you, or a loved one, is suffering from a substance dependency or addiction, please contact one of our trained specialists for help, today.