More and more people are struggling with addiction to painkillers and prescription medications, warns a study, adding that opioids are being misused for chronic pain and "self-medicating" their pain.
Nearly 87 percent of those who were screened positive for illegal drug use, misuse of prescription drugs or heavy alcohol use suffered from chronic pain and half of them graded the pain as severe.
According to the researchers, many illegal drugs such as marijuana and heroin have pain-relieving properties.
It also measures the prevalence of chronic pain in patients who were screened positive for illegal drug use and prescription drug abuse, Alford added in the paper published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The team analysed nearly 25,000 patients in primary care for illegal drug use and misuse of prescription medications.
Among these participants, 589 who were screened positive for substance use, were asked questions about chronic pain and their substance use -- heroin, marijuana, cocaine, etc, as well as use of prescription drugs in ways other than prescribed or high risk alcohol use.
In the subgroup that was using illegal drugs, 51 percent reported using one or more drug specifically to alleviate physical pain.
In those using prescription drugs without a prescription or using more than prescribed, 81 percent identified self-medication of pain as the reason for misuse.
The results suggested that counselling focused only on informing patients about the negative consequences of drug and alcohol use may miss a key aspect of why people are using these substances.