Saturday, July 23, 2011

Chronic Pain In Homeless Managed By Using Street Drugs

Chronic pain is managed particularly poorly among homeless people, who tend to use street drugs to ease the pain, according to new research.

Dr. Stephen Hwang, a researcher at the St. Michael's Hospital’s Centre for Research on Inner City Health, analyzed data from 152 homeless people with chronic pain and found that over a third of them suffered from Chronic Pain Grade IV, the highest level, indicative of a high level of disability. Nearly half of participants reported using street drugs to manage the pain, and about 30 percent said they used alcohol.

Even though half of participants were being treated for their pain by a doctor, 77 percent of the doctors were having a tough time managing patients’ pain because of drug addiction and mental illness.

"Our study demonstrates the need for improved approaches to the management of chronic pain in the homeless population," said Hwang, as quoted by ScienceDaily. "Clinicians should also inquire about barriers to pain management such as financial ability to obtain appropriate over-the-counter and prescription medications. The adverse effects of homeless people's living and sleeping conditions should also be considered."

He added, "A lot of patients expect a pill, when often what they really need is physiotherapy, which they can't afford and isn't covered by insurance."

From the point of view of the homeless chronic pain sufferers, barriers to managing their pain include the price of prescription medication, poor sleeping conditions and stress from living in shelters.

The research results were published in the online journal BMC Family Practice.

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