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Multimodal Pain Management: The Key to Preventing Painkiller Abuse, Addiction, and Overdose

Painkillers were created to help people. Living with moderate to severe pain can be debilitating to a person’s ability to function on the most basic level, and pain medications like OxyContin, morphine, codeine, and others were designed specifically to improve the quality of life of people living with intense acute or chronic pain.

Unfortunately, there is a very real and present danger associated with using these drugs for any length of time. Even when taken exactly as prescribed, it often doesn’t take long for someone to build a tolerance to the medication, requiring a larger dose in order to experience relief from pain. As the dose increases, the person will often experience withdrawal symptoms when without the medication (e.g., sweating, nausea and vomiting, bone and muscle aches, etc.). If coupled with cravings for the drug, or an ongoing obsession with getting and staying on the medication, it can all quickly add up to an addiction.

About 100 million people in the United States are living with chronic pain, an issue that costs about $635 billion every year. This is more than is spent on the treatment of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes put together, according to Fox News. The first line of defense? Painkillers. While they can be helpful for some patients in the moment, they aren’t always the most effective choice for everyone or the best choice for long-term pain management.

close up of woman holding blue pills in hand

In response to the devastating effects of long-term painkiller use among chronic pain patients, a new and more integrated model of treatment may be the best approach: multimodal pain management.

Multimodal Pain Management Model

Multimodal treatment essentially means that the patient will make use of a number of different therapeutic interventions with the goal of addressing chronic pain on a “whole body” level. That is, rather than simply taking a pill multiple times a day, patients will instead:

  • Learn about self-care tools that help to diminish level of pain.
  • Learn more about the nature of pain, the physical and mental health issues that can cause and worsen it, and the types of management options available.
  • Make use of complementary treatments.
  • Use alternative treatments as a first line of defense.
  • Use painkillers as a last resort and at as low of a dose as possible.
  • Reassess pain levels and pain management with a doctor to ensure that the painkiller dose, if used, is as low as possible.

Essentially, multimodal pain management treatment avails clients of physical therapy, alternative and holistic therapies like yoga, herbal supplements; and mental health treatment that can help them to reduce their overall pain levels while providing them with coping mechanisms to reduce the intensity of acute pain episodes.

Benefits of Multimodal Pain Management

Certainly, attending different therapy sessions, attempting gentle exercise and nutrition management, and exploring different options that may have a positive impact on the experience of pain can be time-consuming and even frustrating in the beginning, as clients wait to see what works and what doesn’t work. The relief from pain is not immediate, and many would prefer to simply pop a pill if it means stopping the pain right away.

But there are many benefits to a multimodal treatment approach, and avoiding addiction is only one of those benefits. Additionally, multimodal treatment acknowledges the fact that chronic pain often has more than one origin. Mental health issues can exacerbate issues caused by muscle strain or accident, and things like obesity and chronic ailments can contribute to the intensity of pain. In these cases, getting the right mental health treatment and managing weight and nutritional needs can go a long way toward helping to decrease the issues driving the pain while physical therapy, yoga, and holistic therapies can help to manage the pain that remains. There are untold benefits to getting needed mental health treatment and to maintaining a healthy weight – pain management is just one of them.

The Risks of Traditional Painkiller Use

Traditionally, patients were handed a prescription and little else in terms of support or guidance as they sought to manage their pain. As a result, about 15,000 people died of a painkiller overdose in 2008, more than three times the 4,000 lives lost to opiate overdose in 1999.

For those who do not succumb to overdose, chronic painkiller abuse and addiction can be devastating to every area of a person’s life. People commonly struggle with:

  • Interpersonal relationship problems: Breakups, divorce, loss of child custody, difficulties with children, and fractured relationships with extended family members are all common.
  • Health problems: Opiate medications slow the respiratory system. When combined with substances with similar effect (e.g., benzodiazepines) then medical emergency may be more likely to occur.
  • Financial difficulties: Pills are expensive, whether they are purchased legally or not, and the cost as well as the income lost due to the nature of addiction can place a hefty toll on personal finances.
  • Loss of hope: Perhaps most devastating of all is the feeling of captivity that comes with physical and psychological dependence upon painkillers.

The good news is that, through detox and addiction treatment, there is hope. Comprehensive care designed to meet your needs can help you to safely stop using all substances of abuses and start living a life of wellness.