Opioids are commonly referred to as painkillers, but the term is actually a misnomer, according to Beth Darnall, PhD, a Stanford pain psychologist.
“Chronic pain is rarely eliminated with opioids,” writes Darnall. “Research has shown that on average, long term use of opioids reduce pain only by about 25 to 30 percent. But many people don’t tolerate them at all due to side effects.”
In her newest book written for health care providers, Psychological Treatment for Patients With Chronic Pain, Darnall presents evidence-based alternatives to long-term opioid therapy that she says can improve quality of life for chronic pain suffers and reduce pain.
“Pain is distressing, let’s face it,” Darnall says. “Nobody wants pain. We are all highly motivated to escape pain. There are psychological techniques that can be used to turn down the volume of pain, reduce our suffering and the need for medication by empowering people to best control their own pain.”
With millions of Americans currently taking opioids for chronic pain coupled with national restrictions on opioid prescribing, alternatives are in desperate need, she says.
Darnall explains that she learned the importance of using the power of the mind to reduce pain through her 15 years of working with patients with all types of chronic pain including those with spinal cord injuries, amputations and catastrophic burns.
Her newest book published in August, is a practical field guide for psychologists — and other health care providers — in pain management techniques using cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, hypnosis and biofeedback.