Recently released documents reveal that over 76 billion opioid pain pills were produced and sold in the U.S. from 2006 to 2012, significantly contributing to the nation’s opioid epidemic where more than 2.5 million individuals suffer from addiction. Current treatments range from gradual discontinuation of the drug to medications such as methadone, but for those who struggle with chronic pain, getting off opioids poses a monumental challenge.
“No treatments have yet proven effective for simultaneously addressing chronic pain and opioid addiction, and this is evident in the high rates of opioid recidivism among pain patients,” said Amy Wachholtz, Phd, MDiv, MS, associate professor of psychology and director of the Clinical Health Psychology Program at the University of Colorado Denver. “We need to address this crisis through better treatments that address the psychological and physical needs of the patients.”
Wachholtz tackles just this, studying proven effective treatments for opioid-dependent individuals who suffer from chronic pain by engaging the entire bio-psycho-social components of the body as a solution to the pain crisis. She measures the effectiveness of pain management treatments, including cognitive-behavioral and self-regulation therapies, in combination with therapies already proven effective for opioid dependence.
“We are just starting to understand that the solution to the pain crisis is going to require engaging the entire bio-psycho-social components of a person,” said Wachholtz. “Physicians are not bad people who wanted to get their patients addicted to opioids, but when they had a patient sitting across from them in pain, the only solution they had was the prescription pad. Now, with the growth of integrated care and greater recognition of research showing that psychological therapies can reduce the experience of pain, we have more options for patients struggling with chronic pain to get their life back.”
Wachholtz is funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to study comorbid pain and opioid addiction and has a number of smaller grants to improve multidimensional pain management in advanced cancer patients. She also works to reduce burnout amount health care workers and assess cross-cultural concepts of health and wellbeing.
Wachholtz is actively recruiting patients for this clinical research. To learn more about this opportunity, click here.
Wachholtz can speak to new options for patients struggling with chronic pain, particularly psychological therapies that reduce the experience of pain in the body.
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