Mental illnesses are often implicated in cases of Dual Diagnosis, and it’s certainly true that schizophrenia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders can contribute to both the acquisition and the maintenance of an addiction issue. However, some physical conditions can also impact the way a person heals in an addiction treatment program. These are just a few common physical conditions found in people who develop addictions, along with some therapeutic considerations professionals should keep in mind.
Addictions and chronic pain often go hand in hand, as people lean on opioid medications in order to reduce signals of pain and then become strangely enamored of the euphoria these medications can deliver. In no time at all, people can transition from using the drugs for therapy into using the drugs for recreation, and even as they need assistance with their addictions, their pain may linger.
Addiction treatment programs strive to provide patients with a sense of control, so they can handle their stresses without leaning on recreational drugs. However, abstinence-based programs might not be best for those with chronic pain, as these people might very well need continuing medications in order to experience real healing. After all, leaving the pain in place means leaving the trigger in place, and that could lead to relapse.
When therapy is adequate and pain control is appropriate, people really can recover. For example, in a small study in the journal Pain, researchers found that only two people in 34 in a pain program abused their medication. Therapy really can help people to behave appropriately.
Other Chronic Conditions
While painful conditions are of prime importance, when it comes to addiction care, there are also many other chronic illnesses that are common among people who abuse drugs. For example, people who inject drugs may share needles, and as a result, they may be at risk of HIV/AIDS. A study in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that patients like this might also have a variety of other mental health concerns. In the study, 68 percent of women seeking care for HIV infection had been physically or sexually abused. After two years, these patients also had higher rates of:
- Chronic disease
- Emergency department visits
A study in the Journal of Viral Hepatitis had similar results, although here, researchers found that those who were infected by hepatitis C had higher rates of other physical illnesses, including diabetes and asthma.
Studies like this suggest that people who have one chronic condition can be impaired in many ways, and that they might need intensive physical help in order to avoid a return to a drug-using lifestyle. As a result, medical professionals who refer their patients to an addiction treatment program might expect to stay involved in the treatment program in some way, managing the medical side of things while addiction professionals assist with the psychological issues at play.
If you’d like to find out more about how the physical and the psychological combine in an addiction and what role you might be expected to play if you refer a patient to a Foundations Recovery Network program, please call us. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have.
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.