Nearly nine out of 10 Americans with chronic pain say they are not satisfied with the drugs they take, according to the results of a new survey that also found that half of pain patients on opioid painkillers have had suicidal thoughts.
The national survey of over 1,000 chronic pain patients was conducted last summer by the Center for Public Advocacy at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, a treatment center that takes a 12-step, drug-free approach to addiction and chronic pain treatment. The Center claims 73% of its patients are pain-free and drug-free after a year of treatment.
“Many people with chronic pain feel hopeless,” said Dr. Peter Przekop, an addiction treatment expert at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California. “The pain seems unending, traditional treatment often leads to drug addiction, and many wonder if life is worth living.”
One of the more dramatic findings of the survey is that 97% of chronic pain sufferers had at least one instance of physical or emotional trauma prior to the onset of their pain.
The most common trauma reported was loss of a loved one (75%), followed by emotional abuse (48%), family drug abuse (37%), childhood accident (37%), physical abuse (30%) and sexual abuse (27%).
The findings about trauma are similar to those found in a recent National Pain Report survey of over 2,400 women with chronic pain. Seven out of 10 women in that survey reported having one or more incidents of childhood trauma. Nearly half had experienced emotional abuse as children.
“Doctors at the Betty Ford Center believe that this early pain experience often trains the person’s brain to be more receptive to future chronic pain in a way that does not lead to any treatment relief,” the Center said in a report on the survey.
The survey also found that nearly half of pain patients (48%) were asked to take three or more drugs concurrently to treat their pain. Nearly eight of 10 (79%) of those taking pain relievers said they want to reduce or eliminate their current medications and try an alternative treatment that doesn’t involve drugs.
“The medical system is too reliant on addictive drugs that don’t work and lead to costly and long-term liabilities,” said Przekop. “Truly this is a situation that needs new approaches.”
Other highlights of the survey:
- 88.5% of pain patients are not satisfied with drugs as a basis for treatment
- Only 4.9% have sought illegal drugs
- Over a third (35%) believe they are drug dependent
- Over half (50.4%) experienced lost productivity at work
- Over a third (36.5%) faced family friction because of their pain
- Over a quarter (27.2%) needed public assistance
According to the Institute of Medicine, more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain at a cost of around $600 billion a year in medical treatments and lost productivity.