It has become our society’s latest cliche’. Person suffers injury. Injury causes chronic pain. Doctor prescribes pain medication. Patient gets hooked. We all know someone, and we usually lose that person to their addiction, temporarily or permanently.

An Institute of Medicine report found that more Americans live with chronic pain than with cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined. It is a growing epidemic. About 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, defined as pain that lasts longer than six months. Chronic pain can be mild or excruciating, episodic or continuous, merely inconvenient or totally incapacitating.

But for those of us who do not experience chronic pain, we sometimes see the victims as lazy, drug-seeking liars. We know that medicine alone is not the answer to chronic pain. Psychological treatment and social support are critical to pain management. The stigma associated with those suffering chronic pain – the perception that these folks are complaining of pain to obtain prescription drugs or too lazy to attend physical rehabilitation only makes their condition worse.

Consider the story of my friend Frank. I first met Frank at age 14, the first day of High School. From the first moment, I knew this guy was special. He stood out. He was affable, funny – he attracted a crowd and knew how to make anyone laugh. Then I saw this kid play basketball in gym class. Wow. He moved across the court with the speed of a cheetah and the grace of a swan (not to mention the showmanship and plumage of a peacock). Frank was a popular guy and everyone looked forward to his company.

When we graduated high school, some us went on to college and some of us went into trades. Frank started his own business, opening and cleaning in-ground pools. He quickly built a successful business – no surprise to anyone who knew him. He asked his longtime girlfriend to marry him. She probably said to herself, “it’s about time.” He was a guy for worth waiting.

Then one day Frank hurt his back severely while on a job. He didn’t think much about it at the time – perhaps a muscle pull or strain. He’d rest a few days and get back to work. That next day back at work Frank couldn’t do the things he’d normally do, without experiencing pain. So he went to the doctor. His doctor gave him medicine for the pain. It provided some relief, but without it the pain worsened. He opted for surgery. The surgery didn’t provide the long term relief he had hoped for. So he went back on the meds. He now doesn’t know how to live without them. His fiance decided that she can’t live with him (well, this version of him). His pool business went under (not a fair pun). The rumors around various friend circles characterized him as a lazy, manipulative drug-addict. That he was always on sedatives and always scheming. For those who really knew him, this was an unacceptable label. There was obviously more to the story.

Frank suffers from a disorder known as Fibromyalgia. It is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. It is usually caused by a physical trauma or surgery. It can be debilitating.

The last time I saw Frank we were at a mutual friend’s wedding. He didn’t resemble the popular fun-loving guy I knew in highschool. The years of pain medication addiction had obviously taken its toll. However, he told me he was in recovery and managing his pain through quality clinical treatment. He was lucid and even showed some of the humor he was known for in our high school days. He was human again.

We all know a Frank. People suffering from chronic pain should not be ostracized or unfairly labeled. Their characters have already been assassinated by the pain they suffer and their subsequent addiction to pain medication. They need support from their family and friends, not whispers of judgement.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center’s Chronic Pain and Addiction Treatment Program is appropriate for those individuals who have relied on narcotic analgesics as their primary strategy in the treatment of chronic pain and have experienced side effects or other untoward consequences that may warrant a change. For many, abnormally high tolerance interferes with therapeutic relief from pain, and for others the side effects of sedation and depression interferes with daily functioning. If you and your treating physician agree that trying an alternative to narcotic analgesics is appropriate, then the Hemet Valley Recovery Center is a good place to start.

Take the First Step. Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website. Hemet Valley Recovery Center Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

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