New Pain Treatment Aims to Reduce Prescription Opioids

First Posted: Feb 04, 2014 08:44 PM EST

Prescription painkillers have been a growing concern in recent years. Addiction and overdose have been recurrent issues with these prescription opioids, and with nearly 33 percent of Americans suffering from chronic pain, an alternative method for alleviation is important. 

A study conducted at the University of Utah has revealed a possible solution to prescription painkillers. The results of the study were published on Feb. 3 in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, where they further discuss the new treatment they call "Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement."

The treatment, documented by researcher Eric Garland, found improvement among patient behavior and showed a 63 percent reduction in opioid misuse, compared to a 32 percent reduction of those in a conventional support group. The participants in the new treatment group also reported a 22 percent reduction in pain-related impairment.

The new treatment is designed to train people to respond differently to pain, stress, and opioid-related cues in order to reduce the reliance of prescription painkillers. Its three therapeutic components (Mindfulness Training, Reappraisal, and Savoring) are combined to create a method for those who are suffering.

As enumerated in the study, these processes are described below:

  • Mindfulness involves training the mind to increase awareness, gain control over one's attention and regulate automatic habits.
  • Reappraisal is the process of reframing the meaning of a stressful or adverse event in such a way as to see it as purposeful or growth promoting.
  • Savoring is the process of learning to focus attention on positive events to increase one's sensitivity to naturally rewarding experiences, such as enjoying a beautiful nature scene or experiencing a sense of connection with a loved one.

Garland documented that mental interventions can address physical problems because the mind and body are interconnected. In the study, he randomly assigned his 115 chronic pain patients to either  the new treatment or conventional support group therapy. Nearly 75% of this group of people had misused opioid painkillers before the program. With the results mentioned earlier, this treatment could soon be prescribed by doctors if further studies show its success.

To read more about Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement program and the misuse of painkillers, visit this University of Utah news article.

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