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Opioids and Pain: How Your Use of the Drug Can Lower Your Pain Threshold


We are now beginning to understand how the use of opioid drugs can actually lower one’s threshold for physical discomfort, even if an individual is not suffering from opiate addiction.

Are Opioids Helping Your Pain?

Many individuals require treatment with opiate addiction in order to manage chronic and acute pain. However, as a society we have come to understand that using these drugs minimizes a person’s pain threshold, making them much less likely to be able to handle physical suffering while they are on the drug. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, patients who are going through withdrawal from this substance often require medications as they “have limited tolerance for physical pain” as a population.

This issue is actually becoming cyclical for many individuals, as they need opiates at first to treat their pain and then the use of the drug over time minimizes their tolerance for any painful stimuli. Unfortunately, this has other repercussions as well.

Opioid Use, Abuse, and Your Pain

Many people turn to abusing their opioid medication because their tolerance for the drug’s effects goes up as their pain tolerance diminishes. Their abuse then sometimes leads to opiate addiction, which is a serious illness that requires professional treatment in a rehab center. A large amount of those individuals who begin abusing their opioid medication in the first place, though, do it because of the drug’s contradictory effects on their suffering.

A study from 2010 on the use of opioid medications’ effect on chronic lower back pain concluded that “long-term use of opioids intensifies the peripheral sensitization” of this particular pain. We are beginning to discover that this issue is true for almost any type of chronic issue, and that using opioids, even as prescribed, can actually increase the intensity and the longevity of one’s pain.

How Can I Make a Change?

It is very important to take your medication exactly as your doctor prescribed but, if possible, to try and stay on prescription opioids for only a short amount of time. Different people require different options, but an awareness of how opioid drugs may be affecting you is important to a healthy life.