Patients who are undergoing chronic pain conditions and diagnosed psychological tension – including anxiety, depression, and addiction – are often treated with extensive opioid prescriptions even though the scientific data doesn’t support the method, according to an overview of studies published in General Hospital Psychiatry last year. The report additionally mentioned that behavioral health strategies are often overlooked in treatment plans for pain management patients.

Anyone who has psychological challenges is likelier to experience a long-term, “high dose, high risk” treatment plan, per chief researcher Dr. Catherine Q. Howe of the University of Washington. Although the medical strategy is widespread, those with poor behavioral health do not typically respond well to opioids. They may overuse the medications, sometimes resulting in overdoses and lost lives.

Connection between psychology & pain

Previous scientific reports have revealed that chronic pain isn’t necessarily the cause of anxiety, depression, and other behavioral maladies. In many cases, it’s the other way around: the emotional stress is the source of long-term discomfort. People with certain characteristics, such as abuse during childhood, are more susceptible to pain conditions, addiction, and behavioral health conditions.

Chronic pain itself is incredibly common: figures from the Institute of Medicine suggest that the condition affects 100 million people in the United States. Since 1999, extensive treatment of pain management patients with opioids has increased fourfold.

The authors analyzed clinical trials and other research from questionnaires, insurance documents, and other sources. The study’s understanding of long-term use assumed that opioids were taken more than once per week for at least a full month. Individuals who had been diagnosed with behavioral health conditions had higher rates of these types of prescriptions.

Howe argued that positioning opioids as the “de facto treatment” was not in the best interests of these patients, who instead should be treated with behavioral healthcare. When the latter option is inaccessible, individuals suffering from these disorders may be prescribed opioids to temporarily soothe psychological distress and lessen the immediate physical discomfort – rather than as a long-term solution for chronic pain.

Importance of integration

Dr. Bankole Johnson of the University of Maryland said that the review provides more evidence that integrative medicine is critical to pain management, remarking, “The mind and body are closely tied together.” At Weston Medical, we firmly believe in the integrative or multidisciplinary approach. Nelson Barreto commented in a Google Review on our practice, “Excellent staff and facilities.” Get relief today!

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