Chronic pain is any type or form of pain that lasts up to or more than 12 weeks. This pain is not relieved through OTC painkillers or even most prescribed heavy duty ones. This chronic pain may be the reason a lot of US citizens rely heavy upon and are addicted to illegal drugs as well as certain prescription medicines.
A recent study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine by certain researchers at Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center has found that most patients who are found misusing illegal substances, drugs and alcohol are doing so in an attempt to self-medicate their chronic pain.
Illegal drugs, especially opioids, have pain relieving properties. Heroin and marijuana seem to be favorites amongst US citizens are highly linked to people suffering from chronic pain. In this particular study almost 25,000 patients who were under primary care for illegal drug usage and the misuse of prescription medicines were taken into consideration.
Out of these patients, 589 tested positive for substance abuse and were asked questions about chronic pain about their abuse of illegal or prescription drugs. Out of these 589 patients, 87 percent were found to be suffering from chronic pain. Half of them stated that their pain was severe. Out of the ones amongst them who abused illegal drugs, a shocking 51 percent claimed to have used one or more illegal drugs to lessen or alleviate chronic physical pain at one point or another.
Of those who only misused prescription medication without a perception, or using more than the prescribed mount state that this was mainly a means of self0mediaction of pain. Alcohol abusers saw a 79 percent of its sample stating that they abused simply to manage pain.
Previous studies have tried to focus on developing a link between substance abuse and chronic pain, but this study differs regarding identifying just how much it may affect chances of substance abuse. By measuring and correctly identifying the prevalence of chronic pain in patients with tendencies towards substance abuse, it helped create a link of sorts as to how interlinked these two might be.
While illegal drug, alcohol and prescription medication abuse awareness and help campaigns do exist they tend to make one major mistake. Instead of showing the link between chronic pain and substance abuse, they simply highlight how dangerous and negative substance abuse is. It may be far more beneficial actually to show patients that chronic pain can be linked to substance abuse and how instead of being tempted by the more dangerous route, they should seek medical help at all costs.
All in all this research did a few wonderful things. It became a breakthrough of sorts in the field of addiction research because it showcased an important link between substance abuse and chronic pain. It also helped people realize that the dominant narrative that exists of people being addicted to drugs simply because they are losers and have no life is very stereotypical and just plain wrong.
When people realize that self-medication for chronic pain is a major reason for addiction in our society, it will help addicts seek help and find more acceptances in the society as more than the low lifers they are considered to be. This research could very well be a step towards the de-stigmatization of the drug addict and substance abuse.