Pain management for severe health problems like cancer and chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia can be difficult under any circumstances, but how do you cope when you’re a recovering addict? Using pain medications safely can pose all kinds of problems for someone who is trying to leave addiction behind, but as this article by Jay Westbrook notes, there are some ways to make it safe and healthy for a person who’s in recovery.
Many physicians are reluctant to prescribe strong pain medication for recovering addicts, because they fear that someone in recovery is at risk of becoming addicted to the prescription medications. Similarly, many people in recovery are reluctant to take such medications, even when they’re in severe pain, because of the same fears—and even the simple worry that if they’re taking medication for pain, it means they’re no longer in recovery. However, there are significant costs associated with chronic or severe pain: the physical costs, which can go far beyond the pain itself to associated problems like insomnia and loss of appetite; and spiritual, emotional, and social costs that in general make life a lot harder than it needs to be, at a time when illness is already making things difficult.
There are several ways that people in recovery can work with their doctors to make sure their pain is managed effectively, while minimizing the risk of abusing prescription medications. For example, keeping a pain journal that describes pain in detail can help doctors prescribe the most effective medication and dosage for the patient.
Finally, it’s important to remember that addiction is mental as well as physical: a recovering addict can help themselves stay sober, even when they have to take pain medication, by maintaining a healthy mindset.