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From Chronic Pain to Heroin to Mindfulness

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Heroin has been in the news a lot lately—bad heroin, heroin overdoses, heroin epidemic. But how did it go from being the ‘I’d never go there’ drug to the drug du jour? For people working in addiction treatment, there’s a pretty straight line. The road starts with prescription painkillers. Prescribing opiates like oxycodone for pain got out of control in the past decade. Some people with legitimate chronic pain conditions started getting long-term opiate prescriptions, but people just looking for a fix did, too. Pain management clinics and pill mills catered to both kinds of customers. Around 2010, two things happened: Some states known for pill mills started cracking down on the doctors and customers, and the formula for OxyContin changed, making the pill more difficult to abuse to get high. Both the crackdown and the reformulation ramped up the street price for illicit painkillers. With prices rising, people—both addicts and pain patients—looked for cheaper alternatives, which meant heroin. People who never would have thought they would use heroin quickly became addicted. Parents who thought their teens might have smoked a little pot are finding out their kids are addicted to opiates. The horrible path from pain pills to heroin have pain specialists scrambling for new solutions. A new study involving mindfulness has shown some positive results in pain reduction. Researchers at the University of Utah trained patients in techniques that address some of the processes associated with pain, including mindfulness, reappraising and savoring. In the study, about 75 percent of the 115 pain patients had misused opiates, either by taking higher doses or taking them for reasons other than pain, like stress. The control group received conventional support, while the experimental group learned new techniques. Mindfulness and mindful breathing before taking the opioids were used to focus the mind on craving and whether it was craving for pain relief or craving for the drug. The results showed that people in the experimental group lowered their rates of misuse twice as much as those receiving conventional support. That group also had a 22 percent reduction in pain impairment 3 months after the end of treatment. The main takeaway from this study is that there are other options to treat pain. Doctors in addiction treatment know that this is the biggest issue for many people. This is just one method, one study. Don’t think that you always have to live with pain or addiction. There are other ways to manage pain, that don’t involve opiates or heroin. Get that out of your life for good. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to pain meds, Stepping Stone Center can help. Call us at 866-957-4960 for information about drug rehab. That’s the first step to find lasting pain management.


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