Ending Addiction for Good

Attitude and Action: Changing to Improve Pain Management

Changing your attitude or plans may help you reduce your dose of pain meds.

The majority of people who use pain medication do not become addicted, indicating that the drugs themselves are not necessarily the cause of addiction. One becomes addicted to opioids not so much because the drugs are addictive, but because they “work” for the user who has other issues in addition to the physical pain that the drug addresses. Understanding the root causes of the need for medication and developing a plan with a long-term approach to dealing with both physical and psycho-spiritual pain can be successful. 

Attitude and action are critical factors in overcoming addiction. Here are some ways to change each that may help you reduce your need to abuse pain medications.

Change Your Beliefs

Life does not always turn out the way we expect, like a movie with a happy ending. Life is full of difficulties, and things sometimes change for better or worse. Sadness caused by the realization of giving up a dream or mourning opportunities lost can be painful, but can also lead to peace and acceptance. Reflect on your current abilities, skills, and situation. Be realistic and change your expectations for a healthier attitude. If you wanted to be a millionaire before the age of 30 and your birthday is tomorrow, do not give up and get frustrated or depressed. Instead consider setting a smaller goal and figure out a way that you might realistically reach it, perhaps through investing in the future with more education, which can enable higher earnings. Meeting smaller goals you can reach feels really good and inspires further action.

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Also recognize that pain is part of life. Both physical pain and emotional pain can be expected from time to time. How much is reasonably tolerable to you? The expectation that we will have no pain is one of the paths to prescription painkiller addiction. That is not to say that any or all pain should be tolerated without support. But some pain is to be expected and living through it can be a growth experience.

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Change Your Tactics

Many people persist in approaching problems with solutions that are clearly not working or are flawed in some way. Trying to quit using medication for chronic pain by just stopping it is neither wise nor likely to be successful. Doing yoga or meditation along with a slow reduction in the medication’s dose may help a lot in the control of chronic pain. A holistic approach to health has proven effective in pain management, helping people change their outlook on the way illness can be treated. Always discuss medication changes with a physician first, before you stop or change the dosage of any medicine.

Individualized therapy along with properly used medication, realistic goals, and an attitude to adapt to new circumstances and ideas can help many who suffer from a variety of types of pain.

As Charles Darwin once said: “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”

Constance Scharff, Ph.D. is the Senior Addiction Research Fellow and Director of Addiction Research at Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center.

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