Addiction Medicine Specialist Questions Addiction

How Can I Finally Overcome my Pain Medication Addiction?

For over 10 years now, on and off, I have been addicted to pain medication. I do have horrific headaches that leave me unable to function when they come on. I got addicted to the pain pills when I first began treatment and take the pills even when I don't have headache pain. I've been to several addiction programs, to no avail. I'm also afraid of not taking anything -- what do I do when one of my headaches comes on? I am so confused and so angry with myself. I do need help when the pain comes on, but I don't want this addiction cycle to continue anymore. Is there any help for someone like me?

5 Answers

My recommendation is that you seek a pain management specialist who also works closely with a behavioral health professional. There are cognitive-behavioral treatments for pain; however, you will likely require the care of a physician to monitor your headaches. Medication-assisted addiction treatment may also be helpful.
Dear Asker,
I am not your doctor and the following is not medical advice. This is a very common issue for those who struggle with addiction especially to pain medications; that is to also have some sort of chronic pain. Often the pain leads to the medication use, at times leads to tolerance to the medication effect and overuse and at times leads to addiction. It would be important for any treatment program to address the pain medicine addiction with an evidence based model, including potentially use of medication-assisted treatment, therapy (both group and individual settings are appropriate). Along with such, it would also be important not to forget about the pain treatment as well. Some types of medications utilized for pain medication addiction can help with pain as well, however it may be beneficial to work with either a neurologist or pain management group who are aware of your pain medication addiction history, to adequately address pain needs with alternatives to narcotic type medications. This might include use of alternate strategies for pain management even including non-mediation options you could discuss with pain specialists (things like acupuncture for example). Lastly, it would be important to consider any potential need for mental health treatment as pain and addiction are often intertwined with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and others. A multimodal approach targeting all of these facets may prove most useful. Also consider different types of addiction treatment programs exist, they are not all created equal, and they are not one-size fits all. There is hope, and not everyone gets it on their first try. Best of luck.

I do believe there is help for you. Not knowing where you live, look into programs or therapists such as medical family therapy. Most often they can be found in hospitals. The program/therapists work with your doctor and a program doctor to set up the best treatment for you. They take your pain and need for the medication into consideration when working with you.
Hi there!

I'm so sorry this happened to you. Do they know what the cause of your headaches is? Have you had a full work-up for them? What sort of treatment have you undergone for your addiction? Detox, rehab, buprenorphine, methadone? Buprenorphine does provide relief from pain so that may be an option for you. Also, there are some powerful painkillers (such as diclofenac) that aren't addicting. Your doctor does have some weapons in his arsenal that can help you. Just sit down and talk to him or her.
Good luck!
Here are some of the factors to consider: 1) Opioids often make headaches WORSE, so often stopping them completely will lessen your pain once you're through the pain flare-up that typically lasts 1-2 weeks after stopping these drugs. 2) It does sound as if you're taking the pain medication for euphoria (to feel good) and not just for pain. Most opioid addicts can't stop without Medication Assisted Treatment. This involves long-term maintenance treatment with methadone (at a federally licensed methadone clinic), Suboxone, or Vivitrol. 3) Most rehabs emphasize abstinence: just stopping and going to 12-step meetings. That works for alcohol or cocaine but only very rarely for opioids. Google "Medication Assisted Treatment" and look for links to SAMHSA ( <>) or the FDA ( <>) on this topic. 4) Often, emotional factors like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder help drive opioid addiction. Get therapy if you've had trauma in the past.