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Results of a recent study found that fibromyalgia may be more common among individuals with opioid use disorder, and that treating fibromyalgia may be beneficial for treating opioid use disorder.
Orman Trent Hall, DO, addiction medicine physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, discussed his recent cross-sectional, survey-based study that found fibromyalgia to be a risk factor for pain-related exacerbation of opioid use disorder.
“People with addiction are often excluded from clinical trials for new medications or other ways to treat pain,” Hall explained. “However, we are still in the early stages of understanding how to effectively help people with pain and opioid use disorder. Pain can be particularly devastating for individuals with opioid use disorder, and further investigation into the underlying mechanisms of pain and opioid use disorder is needed.”
By separating out different groups of people with pain based on their mechanisms or causes of pain, researchers can determine if certain mechanisms or causes of pain are more prevalent or impactful among people with opioid use disorder. This information can guide the development of more effective treatments for opioid use disorder.
In Hall’s study, of the 125 individuals with pain and opioid use disorder, 31% met the criteria for fibromyalgia, which is significantly higher than the general population. This finding suggests that fibromyalgia may be more common among individuals with opioid use disorder, and that treating fibromyalgia may also be beneficial for treating opioid use disorder.
However, he noted it's important to exercise caution when interpreting the results of a single cross-sectional survey. If these findings are replicated in future studies, adding treatments for fibromyalgia to standard opioid use disorder treatment may improve outcomes for individuals with pain and opioid use disorder, helping them enter and stay in recovery.
Hall noted that both opioid use disorder and fibromyalgia can be stigmatized, and that people may be mistreated by healthcare providers when seeking help for these conditions. This can be especially daunting for those who have both conditions. The University of Michigan Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center has developed a website that provides information on evidence-based treatments for fibromyalgia and strategies for managing pain.
“If you're struggling with fibromyalgia, I encourage you to explore this website and reach out to healthcare providers who specialize in treating this condition,” Hall concluded. “You don't have to suffer in silence, and there are many resources available to help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.”
This transcript was edited for clarity.