A New Approach to Pain Treatment for Patients in Addiction Recovery

A new approach to pain treatment that combines behavioral therapy with social support has demonstrated the potential for improving outcomes in patients with pain who are also in treatment for medication addiction. Results of a new study conducted by a team from the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System’s Center for Clinical Management Research and University of Michigan Medical School’s Addiction Center found encouraging results for the program, called ImPAT, the acronym for Improving Pain during Addiction Treatment. Veterans who received care under the program while also being treated for addiction reported decreased pain intensity, improved functional ability, and lower alcohol consumption compared to veterans who received a less focused approach. The 2 groups had similar rates of drug use, however. The findings were published in the journal Addiction.

In the study of 129 veterans, half of whom attended the ImPAT sessions and half who did not, the research team observed the comparative differences in pain and function outcomes following just 10 weekly sessions of the program. The authors assert that the ImPAT approach has the potential to be easily and inexpensively adopted by addiction treatment centers and groups worldwide, using team members trained in standard psychological techniques. The approach combines cognitive behavioral therapy with acceptance and commitment therapy, to help patients focus less on their pain, and more on achieving better function in other areas of their lives. Lead author Mark Ilgen, PhD, said, “We want to take the focus off pain and put it onto functioning and finding pleasurable ways to spend time. There’s also a strong link between depression and pain. Pain is responsive to mood, and mood is responsive to social support.” With respect to the treatment of addicted patients, he continued, “We need to study psychological pain management approaches in opioid dependent patients, including those receiving addiction therapies such as buprenorphine.”

Tap to read more about addiction or opioids.

Read more about the study and the treatment approach here.

The article abstract may be read here.



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