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Pain and Addiction

Opioid addiction and pain are common co-morbidities, and comorbid pain is increases the likelihood of opioid relapse by five times compared to opioid addiction alone. Despite this, there is limited knowledge about the unique pain reactions among those with opioid addiction and few treatments. Approximately 30-50% of Americans experience non-malignant chronic or repeating pain and opioid prescribing to treat pain is on the rise. There is a simultaneous rise in reported cases of abuse, or misuse of opioid analgesics with estimates of pain-related opioid abuse/addiction up to 50%. Of patients with opioid addiction entering methadone treatment, 80% report recent pain, and 37% report chronic pain. Among those with pain, 65% described the pain as severe or moderately severe. Pain is a critical factor in relapse. Individuals with comorbid pain and opioid addiction are 3-5 times more likely to relapse than those with opioid addiction but no pain12. The frequency of this comorbidity necessitates a better understanding of the psycho-physiological links between pain and opioid addiction, and the need to provide empirically validated treatment options.


  • Examining how pharmacological treatment for opioid addiction affects pain sensitivity. NIDA K23- A. Wachholtz, PhD
  • Develop a psychotherapy treatment for co-morbid opioid addiction and chronic pain. NIDA K23- A. Wachholtz, PhD