PainRelief.com Interview with:
Emily L. Zale PhD
Department of Psychology
Syracuse, New York
PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: When people think of pain and substance use, it’s common for opioids to come to mind. While the opioid crisis has rightfully garnered considerable attention, our research suggests that non-opioid substances, like nicotine/tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis, are also important to consider in relation to pain. In fact, nicotine/tobacco, alcohol, and cannabis are the most commonly used substances in the US, and research into associations between pain and these non-opioid substances is continuing to increase in popularity.
Research studies usually examine either how substance use affects pain or how pain affects substance use. We looked at results from over 100 studies and put these two different types of research together to understand how pain and substance use affect each other.
On one hand, substance use can be a risk factor for chronic pain and may worsen pain over time. On the other hand, experiencing pain can motivate people to use substances and might make it harder to quit. By putting these two types of studies together, we found that pain and substance use interact in a vicious cycle that can ultimately worsen and maintain both chronic pain and addiction.