How to Avoid Self-Medicating While Coping With Chronic Pain

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Chronic pain caused by injury or illness can be challenging to manage for individuals in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). Most prescription medications designed for pain relief are highly addictive and meant for short-term use. Unfortunately, medical professionals often overprescribe them leading to possible dependency and misuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “higher prescribing of painkillers is associated with more overdose deaths.” Approximately 46 individuals die every day from overdosing on prescription painkillers. 

The Connection Between Chronic Pain and Relapse 

Medical professionals often treat chronic pain caused by severe illness or injury using highly addictive painkillers designed for short-term relief. Illegal opioid misuse usually begins as a way to avoid pain or discomfort when tolerance to prescription painkillers makes them less effective. Even after withdrawal and detox, you may find that prescription painkillers do not provide the necessary level of pain relief, leading to self-medication and potential relapse.

Self-Medicating Can Increase Overdose Risk

Co-occurring disorders like mental health issues and substance misuse are common in individuals struggling with chronic pain. Treating the symptoms of each condition can be difficult if you do not attend a comprehensive treatment program like the ones offered at White House Recovery and Detox. You may feel tempted to misuse prescription medication, alcohol, or other substances to get relief from the pain. However, self-medicating can significantly increase the risk of overdose, death, or injury. 

How to Avoid the Dangers of Self-Medicating 

Self-medication in any form can be dangerous, even if it does not involve misusing prescription medication, alcohol, or illegal drugs. To stay safe and avoid relapse, you should avoid replacing one type of self-medication with another. You can use healthy coping skills and relaxation exercises to naturally lower pain levels. According to the New York Academy of Science, “mindfulness meditation is a technique that has been found to significantly reduce pain in experimental and clinical settings.” You can use meditation and other coping skills to stabilize your pain and decrease physical and emotional stress. 

5 Healthy Ways to Cope With Chronic Pain

Rehabilitation programs teach various techniques for coping with the symptoms of SUD, and you can adopt many of them to manage chronic pain, including the ones listed below: 

  1. Control Your Breathing: deep, slow breathing can decrease pain by relaxing muscles and changing how the brain processes pain.
  2. Replace Painful Activities: track your pain levels over several weeks. If you notice that certain activities cause your pain to spike, you can work with a medical professional and your support system to develop alternative activities that cause less discomfort.
  3. Reduce Everyday Stress: stress can worsen pain and make it harder to cope. Decrease stress by practicing daily self-care and using resources like self-help groups, your support system, and relaxation techniques to lower stress levels. You can also try alternative stress-reduction treatments like massage therapy or acupuncture.
  4. Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy: taking care of your overall physical well-being will make it easier to cope with chronic pain. A few ways you can ensure you feel your best is by doing the following:
    • Exercise your mind and body.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Eat regular nutritious meals.
  5. Peer Support: you can join an in-person or online self-help group for individuals living with chronic pain. You can share experiences and get advice and encouragement from other people who understand your pain.

The Power of Spiritual Healing 

Emotional self-care is essential for managing physical disabilities like chronic pain. If you have religious or spiritual beliefs, it can be helpful to focus on improving your spiritual well-being. Instead of changing your activities or altering how you think about pain, it might be more beneficial to introduce holistic therapies or methods of spiritual healing into your routine. Research has shown that prayer, meditation, relaxation techniques, and mindfulness exercises provide varying levels of relief from chronic pain for people of faith. According to Pain Research and Management, “chronic pain and fatigue sufferers who were both religious and spiritual were more likely to have better psychological well-being and use positive coping strategies.”

Stay Positive While Living With Chronic Pain

Mental outlook plays a considerable role in how you process pain and stress. A positive attitude can make a significant difference in how you feel physically and mentally. You may not be able to control whether you are in pain or not, but you can control how you choose to respond to it. You can learn to cope with chronic pain in a healthier way by remaining positive and choosing to focus on the good things you experience each day.

Chronic pain can contribute to substance use disorder and increases the risk of relapse after treatment at rehabilitation facilities. We provide skill development and other services to teach you how to cope with daily stressors like chronic pain. You do not have to struggle with pain on your own. Resources like self-help groups, individual or group therapy, and holistic treatments exist to help you cope with chronic pain and other symptoms of severe illness or injury. You can choose to make positive changes in your life to help you heal and keep you feeling comfortable. Chronic pain is a common issue for individuals in recovery from SUD. At White House Recovery and Detox, we provide a variety of treatments and therapy to provide relief from SUD and related conditions. We understand that you cannot fully recover without finding healthy ways to cope with chronic symptoms. Learn more by calling us today at (800) 510-5393.