Did you know that pain triggers addiction of many kinds

Research is now showing that pain triggers addiction, but there’s more than one kind of pain, and more than one kind of addiction. That means you may be at risk in more than one way. There’s physical pain caused by disease, surgery or an injury. And there’s emotional pain that’s caused by family dysfunction, a wide range of traumas, and abuse. No matter what is the reason you’re hurting, it’s not surprising that you would look for something to make that pain stop. It’s human nature to want both physical and emotional pain to stop. Is pain the core and foundation of addiction?

There are new theories about how someone (possibly pre-disposed) becomes addicted. All seem to revolve around the idea that addiction becomes you new best friend, even if it’s a bad friend. Addiction is defined as a chronic and relapsing disease of brain reward. We know there is treatment for addiction, and that treatment can take many forms. Even codependency with a loved one who is using, or enabling can become addictions that arise from emotional pain.

Addiction is a disease that has a genetic component

As we have said addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disease of brain reward. Some of us get it, and others do not. It seems like a crap shoot, but it can sometimes be explained by the DNA, sometimes by our brain and the addiction center. Genetic research has revealed that some people are predisposed to addiction, but not to a specific type of addiction.

What is the addiction center

For many, pain triggers addiction because pain the initiation. An accident, a surgery, bad arthritis or some other causative factor can cause a diagnosis that puts people on pain medication. Relying on pain medication can then become a recurrent process and need. The medication itself is addictive. The body needs it and goes into withdrawal without it. While other treatments can also be used, it’s so much easier for patients to take a pill.  And then it happens, but remember pills are not the only kind of addiction.

Pain triggers addiction in other ways

Do you know someone who has a deep spiritual dilemma that evolves to a black hole of heart-felt religious loss. If you feel guilty about something you did, or something someone did to you, that emotional pain can lead to self medication. To try to dull the pain or get back to your better self, pills or alcohol, or both are used to assuage spiritual guilt. People who are drinking or using are then stuck in religious quick sand.

Why is emotional pain so hard to face and ease

For people using alcohol and drugs or are enabling and codependent, emotional pain can be just too hard to evaluate and fix. A lost love, problems communicating with others, a psychological diagnosis untreated, or poorly treated create relentless pain. Teens, adults and seniors are all at risk for self-treating their pain with pills and alcohol that only make matters worse. Pain triggers addiction when you or a loved one comes to a cross road, and you take the wrong road.

What can become an addiction

You may have one or more. While people think of drugs and alcohol first when they think about addiction, but there are many behaviors that can get out of control in exactly the same way. Gambling, sex, shopping, working, gaming online, exercising, eating: these are some other forms.

What about the pain of loved ones and family members

Many of us have experienced the agony of a loved someone who has become addicted. Has this happened to you? It’s a very hard thing to witness. You may desperately try to fix them. Then you try to help them by hiring a profession who can fix them. Maybe they get the appropriate medication. What if, however, your loved one does not like the side effects, and stops taking the medication that could help them. He may reject other forms of treatment because it’s too much trouble. “Please stick with it,” you plead. But alcohol and/or drugs makes your loved one feel better, and help them cope—for a while. You become completely addicted to trying to help, get them to listen. You are now addicted, too. If you are a family member support is needed for you to get balanced and heal.

Our own pain triggers addiction to codependency and helping

Those of us watching someone go through this process find that it can be heartbreaking and all encompassing. We often take two paths here; one of disengagement, or one of constantly being a cheerleader. Both responses can provoke spiritual and emotional pain. There are ways to heal from codependency.


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Gail Dudley, D.O.
For more than twenty years Gail Dudley had a busy family practice with a hospital and nursing home component. Gail also obtained a MHA (Masters of Healthcare Administration) and completed a one-year health policy fellowship. Dr. Gail has worked in quality assurance and utilization review, hospice practice, and now works full time for a company that has contracts with Medicare and Medicaid to evaluate fraud, waste and abuse in the medical world. Gail describes herself as “a child from an abused childhood who ultimately decided to get ahead in life rather than remain a victim.” She became “a classic over achiever to make up for the losses and pain that accompany an abusive childhood as the daughter of an alcoholic.” The ex wife of an alcoholic and the mother of a son who has been struggling substance use since the age of 12, Gail is deeply familiar with the family disease of addiction. She is also the mother of a high achieving daughter. Gail is delighted to add her voice to Reach Out Recovery both as a medical professional and a mother who has experienced addiction from every aspect. "As someone surrounded on all sides (personal and professional) by addiction issues, I always try to help whenever and wherever I can."

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