Faking Pain to Get Opioids: Can You Tell the Difference?

The emergence of the opioid epidemic has made it challenging for patients who legitimately struggle with chronic pain stemming from nerve damage, unhealed injuries, multiple surgeries, weight problems and other health ailments. As doctors prescribe less opioids, patients who need pain killers are left in the lurch in need of alternative medicine to ease their chronic pain. Meanwhile, individuals with a substance use disorder (SUD) are actively seeking opioids to avoid withdrawal symptoms. According to a survey of participants with chronic pain and substance use disorder, some of the tactics used to obtain opioids include the following: faking allergies and injuries, hiding substance abuse addiction, “losing” prescription opioids, refusing alternative therapies for pain management, and producing x-rays as proof of pain.

Currently, there is not enough research to suggest any distinction between someone with a substance use disorder and an individual with chronic pain. The two conditions coexist so intricately that it would require a multidisciplinary team of experts to evaluate everyone on a case-by-case basis.

Opioid Use Disorder and Pain-Related Dependence

The hallmark symptoms of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) are manifested in an individual’s inability to fulfill obligations and reduce use of opioids. The individual continues to use opioids longer than intended to avoid withdrawal symptoms associated with discontinuation. For patients struggling with severe pain, Opioid Use Disorder is often iatrogenic in nature, meaning that these individuals developed OUD as a result of treatment for their pain.

Research shows that individuals who developed prescription-related opioid dependence were more likely to complete addiction treatment than those who used only heroin or combined heroin with prescription opioids. Although scientists know that individuals treated for chronic pain are at high risk for developing Opioid Use Disorder, there is an insufficient body of research regarding the pathways to pain-related opioid dependence except for the patients’ self-reported observations.

Medical professionals often find it challenging to distinguish between the behaviors of an addict versus someone whose severe pain is poorly or inadequately managed, because they both exhibit similar traits such as spending excessive time searching for a doctor who would prescribe opioids to relieve their suffering. If a clinician suspects that his patient has developed an addiction to opioids, he would refer his patient to a dual diagnosis treatment center, making it clear that he is not abandoning the patient but is merely collaborating with other addiction professionals to coordinate care in the patient’s best interest.

Where to Turn When Your Doctor Stops Prescribing Opioids

New Method Wellness, a premier dual diagnosis addiction treatment center in San Juan Capistrano, CA, uses Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) to help individuals with OUD. Handpicked by Dr. Phil, New Method Wellness offers a wide array of holistic programs, ranging from massage therapy to equine therapy, for individuals who want to eliminate their use of opioids once and for all. Unique to New Method Wellness’s approach to substance abuse treatment is their 3:1 staff-to-client ratio, meaning that every single person is paired with two therapists to ensure personalized attention and care. Licensed and dually accredited, New Method Wellness lives up to its promise in delivering the highest quality of client-centered substance abuse treatment.

For more information about our dual diagnosis treatment programs, call 866.951.1824 today!

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