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Unlocking Solutions: Chronic Illness,  Pain, and Addiction with MAT

Chronic illness and addiction are challenges that affect people's bodies, minds, and social lives. As many as 133 million people live with chronic illnesses, according to the American Hospital Association.  When chronic pain is part of the picture, it gets even more challenging to manage both pain and addiction. This article explores how chronic illness, chronic pain, and addiction are linked and looks at how medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help.


The Link Between Chronic Illness, Chronic Pain, and Addiction

Chronic illness and addiction can go hand in hand, with each affecting the other. People coping with chronic conditions like diabetes or fibromyalgia are more likely to have ongoing pain, trouble functioning, and feeling down. Unmitigated pain can sometimes lead to using drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate. It can also lead to substance use disorder or addiction.

On the flip side, substance use problems can make chronic illness symptoms worse, complicate treatment, and cause more health issues. This creates a difficult cycle where things can continue to spiral. Dealing with both chronic pain and addiction means finding ways to tackle the problems that drive them.

Understanding Chronic Pain in Common Chronic Illness

Chronic pain can be a symptom of many diseases and conditions, but some are more common. Here are some diseases that can cause or contribute to chronic pain:

  • Diabetes Mellitus: Diabetes often brings nerve pain and tingling feelings, known as neuropathic pain. A study found that about a quarter of people with diabetes deal with this kind of pain, which affects their daily lives.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA): RA causes painful, swollen joints that make moving hard. Nearly seven out of ten people with RA feel moderate to severe pain, making it challenging to go about their day.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): IBD, like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, brings belly pain, cramps, and bathroom troubles. Almost half of people with IBD deal with ongoing belly pain, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, which adds to their stress and makes life more complicated.
  • Fibromyalgia Syndrome: Fibromyalgia causes all-over body pain, tiredness, and sleep problems. Between 2% and 8% of people struggle with fibromyalgia, especially women, according to NIH.

How Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Helps:

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) offers a way to tackle both chronic pain and addiction at the same time. It uses medicines to help with pain, cut down on cravings for drugs, and support recovery.

MAT combines these meds with therapy and support to give people a better chance at feeling better and staying healthy.

It can be used in pain medicine for people who want to forgo opioids. People dealing with chronic pain and opioid addiction can find relief with MAT. Medicines like buprenorphine or methadone help with pain and cravings, giving them a chance to focus on getting better. Studies show that using buprenorphine-naloxone can help improve pain and how well people can do things.

Buprenorphine holds promise in managing various pain conditions, especially those where conventional opioid therapy might pose risks or prove less effective. Its nuanced properties make it particularly suited for:

  • Chronic Pain: Buprenorphine's extended duration of action makes it suitable for chronic pain management, offering sustained relief with less frequent dosing. This makes it a valuable option for conditions like neuropathic pain, arthritis, or low back pain.
  • Opioid-Tolerant Patients: People who have developed tolerance to other opioids can benefit from buprenorphine's strong receptor binding affinity. It can effectively manage pain in individuals who require escalating doses of opioids due to tolerance.
  • Opioid-Induced Hyperalgesia (OIH): Buprenorphine's unique pharmacological profile may mitigate OIH, a clinical situation where chronic opioid use can cause a paradoxical increase in pain sensitivity. Its partial agonist activity can offer relief without exacerbating this phenomenon.
  • Postoperative Pain: Buprenorphine's lower risk of respiratory depression and milder withdrawal profile make it an appealing option for postoperative pain management, especially for patients with a history of substance abuse or respiratory issues.
  • Complex Pain Syndromes: Conditions such as fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), trigeminal neuralgia or cancer-related pain, where pain mechanisms are multifactorial, might benefit from buprenorphine's effects.

Buprenorphine may not be suitable for all pain conditions or patients. Patients will decide with the guidance of a doctor. Careful evaluation of each person’s medical history, pain profile, and risk factors is essential to determine its appropriateness. Patients usually receive close monitoring and tailored dosing strategies.

Other Non-Opioid Medications For Pain

Other medications also exist to help with pain that are non-addictive and also contain no opioids.

Neuropathic Pain

Medicines like gabapentin or pregabalin can help with nerve pain from chronic diseases like diabetes or fibromyalgia. These meds change how pain signals work in the body, making it easier to cope without needing opioids, which can be risky.

Non-Opioid Analgesics

Other pain medicines like NSAIDs, acetaminophen, or antidepressants can be part of MAT too. They offer relief without the risks that come with opioids. When used with therapy and other support, they help manage pain and reduce the chances of getting hooked.

Muscle Relaxants

Muscle relaxants play an important role in managing chronic illness by helping to ease muscle tension and spasms that can contribute to ongoing discomfort. These medications work by calming overactive muscles, which can be helpful for conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic low back pain, or muscle strains

Getting Help for Chronic Pain

Do you live in North Carolina and need help managing chronic pain without opioids? We’re here to guide you.

Living with chronic illness, chronic pain, and addiction is tough, but there are ways to get help. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) offers a way to deal with pain and addiction together, giving people with chronic illnesses a better shot at feeling better and staying healthy. By using medicines along with therapy and support, MAT offers hope for a brighter future for those facing the challenges of chronic illness and addiction.

Learn more about our services by calling us at 910-295-7246.

If you are in need of help, please call us at: 910-295-7246 or message us.



Contact Solas Health

Our mission is to improve lives and help you get better.

Addiction, pain, and mental health challenges interfere with the joys of living, but we can help. Dr. Corrigan, and the whole team at Solas Health, will help.

If you are in need of help, please call us at: 910-295-7246 or message us.

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