According to a new study conducted by researchers from The Ohio State University and the University of Michigan, fibromyalgia and the disorder’s associated chronic pain may exacerbate opioid use disorder (OUD).
It has long been suspected that there is an adverse relationship between chronic pain and OUD. Individuals typically first turn to opioids in order to curb pain. But, chronic pain is long-lasting and has been linked to the aggravation of OUD as well as relapse among those in opioid addiction recovery.
But, scientists were unsure if all pain had the same impacts on OUD or if distinct diagnoses could yield much more significant effects.
Fibromyalgia symptoms include body pain that is widespread, as well as severe tiredness and difficulty sleeping and thinking. This chronic disorder is believed to stem from pain signals in the brain that are abnormally robust.
“Many of the brain pathways and chemicals believed to be involved in fibromyalgia are also involved in opioid addiction. This overlap made us suspect fibromyalgia might worsen OUD. It’s a sort of double hit hypothesis,” explained Dr. O. Trent Hall, the study’s lead author.
So, the researchers set out to survey 125 individuals who lived with both chronic pain and OUD. Of this group, 39 people– or 31%– met the fibromyalgia criteria.
And while all of the study participants experienced pain and OUD, individuals who had fibromyalgia were significantly more likely to claim that pain worsened their opioid addiction.
In fact, the participants with fibromyalgia often agreed that their pain pushed them to continue and even increase opioid usage. Additionally, these individuals admitted to delaying seeking help due to fears that their pain would become intolerable without opioids.
“These are serious findings,” said Dr. Julie Teater, the study’s co-author.
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