Americans Living with Chronic Pain



Americans Living with Chronic Pain

A new study reports that approximately 20% of Americans experience some form of chronic pain at any given time. This statistic accounts for about 50 million people in the country. The eye-opening data was discovered in 2019 when the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added additional questions to its National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) regarding pain.


Chronic pain is the most common ailment among Americans, affecting nearly 1 in 5 adults, but its lasting effects on the population are often overlooked. Chronic pain causes almost $300 billion in lost productivity annually and $80 billion in lost wages. Beyond the economic impacts, chronic pain is undeniably a factor that has led to the opioid crisis and continues to be a major concern when regulating pain medications, especially opioids.


Chronic Pain Statistics

  • Chronic pain is the #1 cause of long-term disability in the United States

  • 70% of people with chronic pain are women

  • Advanced age is a prominent factor in causing chronic pain

  • Persistent lower back pain is the most common form of chronic pain reported

  • 50% of adults suffer from chronic headaches [source]

  • Researchers found a correlation between mental and physical health and chronic pain

  • People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have shown an increase in chronic pain

  • Little research has been done examining how chronic pain levels change over time


Chronic Pain and Opioids

When powerful synthetic opioid painkillers were introduced to the pharmaceutical market in the mid-90s, doctors were told that these powerful medications were ideal for many different forms of pain with a lessened potential for abuse compared to opiates or semi-synthetic opioids. This spurred a trend of physicians liberally prescribing powerful opioid painkillers in large quantities until dubious marketing practices by pharmaceutical companies were brought forth in 2003. A warning letter issued by the FDA pointed out discrepancies found in regards to the safety of these medications and the downplayed potential for misuse and fatal overdose.


By the time the mid-2000s rolled around, patients were regularly receiving scripts for powerful opioid medication, especially those who suffered from chronic pain due to arthritis, genetic conditions, and other non-terminal or end-of-life care ailments. Nearly two decades later, new information shows that opioids can have a counterintuitive effect on chronic pain, sometimes making it worse and last longer. Unfortunately, this new research does little to help the millions of people who rely on opioids for daily pain management and are at high risk of severe adverse effects if they discontinue their use of opioid medication abruptly.


Curbing the Use of Opioids for Chronic Pain

The CDC’s new opioid prescribing guidelines for chronic pain released in 2016 marginally helped decrease the amount of new opioid prescriptions given to new patients, as well as a decrease in treatment duration for those who were prescribed opioid painkillers previously. More research is being funded to investigate non-opioid approaches for chronic pain and preventative measures patients can take to improve their overall health through lifestyle choices that will reduce their potential for experiencing chronic pain down the line.


There’s still more work to be done to help those suffering from chronic pain, as well as the victims of overprescribing painkillers who are now statistics of the opioid epidemic in the country. Many people who developed opioid use disorder as a result of exposure to prescription painkillers have found success with comprehensive outpatient opioid addiction programs such as medication-assisted treatment. With the use of FDA-approved medications, compassionate substance use counselors, and attentive and specialized medical providers and nursing staff, patients enrolled in these recovery programs have shown the best chance at achieving long-lasting recovery.


To learn more about the addiction treatment programs offered at Middlesex Recovery, locate the nearest facility and give us a call or message us today.