Pain can lead to relapse to addiction or alcoholism

Among individuals leaving residential detoxification, chronic pain is associated independently with long-term substance use after detoxification.

Pain in detoxification alcohol users and addicts is common. Over two years 16% experience persistent pain and 54% intermittent pain.

Persistent pain may increase the chances of relapse in detoxified heroin addicts 400%; in heavy alcohol abusers by 220%; and cocaine addicts by 200%.

The key independent variable was pain status:

  • persistent pain (moderate to very severe pain at all available interviews),
  • no pain (mild pain or less at all available interviews) and
  • intermittent pain (all others).

There were four outcomes of interest:

  • self-reported use of any substance;
  • heroin/opioide use; heavy alcohol use; and
  • cocaine use
  • 24 months after detoxification.

Addressing pain as a treatable chronic condition among adults receiving detoxification presents a potential opportunity to improve long-term clinical outcomes and warrants further intervention research.

Mary Jo Larson, Michael Paasche-Orlow, Debbie M. Cheng, Christine Lloyd-Travaglini, Richard Saitz, Jeffrey H. Samet. Persistent pain is associated with substance use after detoxification: a prospective cohort analysis; Addiction 102 (5), 752–760.


Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain


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