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How to Cope with Chronic Neck Pain as a Recovering Drug Addict

By Edited Aug 26, 2016 0 1

Injury and chronic pain is scary at any time, but it is especially challenging when you are a recovering drug addict. Chronic pain in itself is hard to cope with and often causes depression and other problems. But, when you are in recovery and need treatment with narcotic pain medication it can bring about a lot of controversy and inner turmoil. Family and friends are likely to have concerns about your use of these medications because of their fear for your health (and return to addiction). Being in recovery, however, doesn't immune you from injury and you don't have to martyr yourself.

Things You Will Need


Step 1

Find a doctor that you trust. Chronic neck pain and other physical pain treatment requires an empathetic doctor. A good doctor will develop a positive rapport with you and be a huge support. He or she should be understanding regarding your past substance abuse. If you sense that you are being treated with discrimination because of your history then find a new doctor. In this case doctor shopping is a good thing.

Step 2

Use as many alternative medical treatments that are non-narcotic as you possibly can. Acupuncture works quite well for some people and should be tried as either a primary or adjunct therapy. Another therapy that should be utilized is chiropractic care. Chiropractic care is a holistic approach that advocates for the prevention of illness and a return to a homeostatic state. This focus can be very helpful in returning healing in all aspects. Many people who have conquered substances have a natural need to heal and a multifaceted approach to health is quite beneficial.

Step 3

When you have chronic neck pain or other types of chronic pain it is very important that you have some type of support so you don't spiral into a severe depression. Depression and chronic pain go hand in hand because people lose mobility, lose the ability to be as active, and have a loss of quality of life. Having a chronic pain condition and being in recovery from addiction multiplies the need for good support. There are support groups for people with chronic pain and many people who have chronic pain and are treated with narcotic pain medications will end up with dependence issues.

Step 4

Seek addiction support. When a recovering addict needs to be on narcotic pain medication because of chronic pain it's imperative that there is positive support. For people who are in twelve step programs it can be a major conflict to take narcotics for anything because the belief overall is that it's impossible for any addict to introduce drugs back into their body without causing an eventual relapse. This is not always true, but it can be a very dangerous time and is easy to fall back into the addictive process. That is why support and proper medical attention is so important to getting the best care for both conditions.

Get support from your sponsor. If you cannot handle your own medication have someone else hold it for you. Make sure you trust this person. Ask your sponsor to go with you to the doctor if he or she doesn't understand why narcotics are necessary. Utilize online NA meetings. Share in meetings if you're comfortable. Not everyone will be receptive of your use of narcotics, but according to Narcotics Anonymous you have not relapsed if you are taking them as prescribed. Your openness about the struggle might help save another suffering.

Step 5

Be honest with your doctor. If you are taking pain medicine under supervision and as prescribed, but you start to have cravings for more or you find yourself unable to figure out if you're taking them for physical or mental relief then be honest with your doctor about it. Your doctor should be one of your lifelines and can help you cope with your chronic pain. One way of helping is by not prescribing large quantities of medicine. You may also talk to your doctor about using Methadone because it works differently than other opiate medicines.

Step 6

Have a plan for withdrawal. It doesn't take very long to become physically dependent on opiate pain medicine. When you already have a history of drug addiction it becomes easier for your brain to become dependent and addicted because of the change in brain chemistry. There is a difference between addiction and dependence. Talk to your doctor about this difference so you understand that people who become dependent are not drug addicts, even if you have been actively addicted to a substance in the past.

It's possible that the withdrawal process can trigger more emotions than actually being on the pain medicine. For many addicts they are fine when they are using, but it is the taking away of the drug, the withdrawal, that causes the problem. Your doctor can support your withdrawal process and taper you off of the medication slowly so you don't experience awful withdrawal problems. Utilize your support during this time. Ask your doctor about Suboxone. Suboxone or Buprenorphine is a medication that is used to help people withdraw from opiates without getting sick. Buprenorphine cannot be prescribed by every doctor so yours might have to refer to someone else.

Step 7

Exercise. Do whatever exercise your pain allows. If you have chronic neck pain and are coping with that and being in recovery then exercise is a great plan. Using a stationary bicycle is a fairly non restrictive form of exercise. This will not only strengthen your body, but it will release the positive chemicals called "endorphins", the body's natural opiates. Apart from being good for your pain condition this is a great coping skill when you're in recovery.

Step 8

The most important part of coping with chronic neck pain when you are a recovering drug addict is to stay honest with yourself and never give up that your pain will be alleviated some day. Chronic pain is debilitating. If you live with this while recovering from a drug addiction you are a true survivor. Do not forget to ask for help. Although some people expect folks in recovery to martyr themselves and not take any pain medication this is not always possible. There are times when it is necessary to take opiate pain meds and they actually do help you heal. It is not an ideal situation, but make it work. It helps to remember where your addiction took you and why you quit in the first place.

If your chronic pain condition leads to abuse of pain medication do not beat yourself up about it. It is hard to take them and not abuse them when you're fighting against your own biology. That's why it's so important to get good support. If you need inpatient to get off of them then ask your doctor for this support. Using your voice and asking for your needs to be met is one of the most important coping skills that anyone in recovery can have.

Be well.



Jan 15, 2010 4:32pm
Most headaches and neck pain are due to the shoulder blades sitting too low on the trunk. There are muscles attaching from the shoulder blade directly to the first four neck vertebrae and skull. When the shoulders sit too low, these muscles then pull on the neck bones and skull causing neck pain and headaches.
Here's a quick, simple test to see if this is the case with you. If you're having right-sided neck pain or headaches, raise your right hand and place it flat on top of your head for 20 seconds. Make sure your head doesn't side-bend or rotate to achieve this. If your pain diminished after this test, then your scapula may be sitting too low causing your discomfort. This is easily correctable. This is also the culprit in diagnoses such as thoracic outlet syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Thanks for your article and good luck!
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