How Mental Health Professionals Can Play a Role in Chronic Pain Management
Many people consider physical and mental health problems completely separate from one another. However, medical and behavioral health professionals understand that the two affect each other. Addiction to opioids and chronic pain have physical and emotional symptoms that we shouldn’t ignore. By addressing both problems from all angles, we can curb the opioid crisis impacting the United States.
About The Opioid Epidemic
According to NIDA, about 2.1 million Americans had a prescription opioid-related substance use disorder in 2016. That same year, 626,000 had a heroin use disorder, and 15,000 died from heroin overdose. Overall, an average of 115 people die from opioid overdose every day. These statistics show only a small part of the impact that opioid abuse has on public health. It causes an immeasurable amount of physical and emotional harm to patients and their loved ones.
New Opioid Regulations and Their Effect on Chronic Pain Patients
As a result of the increasing opioid problem in the United States, the CDC issued new opioid prescribing guidelines in 2016. They suggested a lower reliance on opioids as the first line of care for pain. Many patients undergoing opioid treatment feel dismayed by these changes. The updates make it seem like the healthcare system treats them as part of the problem.
We believe that the CDC has good reason to change how we prescribe opioids. However, these patients have understandable concerns about an increase in the burden of chronic pain.
How You Can Help Patients Taking Opioids for Chronic Pain
Behavioral health professionals from all disciplines can help pain patients manage their symptoms. Healthcare frequently leaves pain treatment up to specialists and general providers, but you also have a part to play. Pain causes a wide range of psychological symptoms often left unaddressed. When we don’t target the emotional aspects of pain, substance abuse becomes more likely due to mental illness’ role as a risk factor. The patient also has a difficult time trying alternative and supplemental therapies because of mental health symptoms like fatigue and lack of motivation.
Additionally, tackling the emotional symptoms of pain could reduce a patient’s need to rely on opioids. That’s not to say that pain patients can “get over” their conditions. However, the APA states that research indicates that some forms of psychotherapy could work as well as surgery to relieve pain.
If you don’t already address chronic pain symptoms, consider what you can do for your chronic pain patients. Even starting a simple conversation could make a big difference.
About AccuCare and the Opioid Risk Tool
AccuCare and its new Opioid Risk Tool (ORT) feature make it easier than ever to monitor addiction risks in your patients. The ORT uses a research-supported questionnaire to calculate a patient’s potential for abuse. Answer a few simple yes or no questions, and the ORT automatically calculates a score that helps you understand your patient’s risk. That way, you can monitor patients with high scores and stop addiction before it happens.