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An opioid alternative helps one veteran find relief from chronic pain

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15min 22sec
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Jacob, an Army Veteran with chronic back pain, and his wife, Meredith, spent years trying to find a treatment that would work.

A doctor who treats veterans says research is increasingly showing that a drug typically used to help people withdraw from opioid medications can also be an effective pain management tool. 

Dr. Joseph Frank, who leads a team at the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center for veterans with chronic pain, has been prescribing the drug buprenorphine for patients who have used traditional opioid painkillers for relief but want an alternative that’s safer and has fewer side-effects. Dr. Frank said in many cases, his patients report the drug works better than the drugs they had been taking.

We hear from one of Dr. Frank’s patients, an Army veteran named Jacob – who didn’t want his last name used – about his decade-long search to find pain relief. Two years ago, Jacob, who lives near Colorado Springs, began taking buprenorphine for chronic back pain. Since then, he’s experienced significant relief and said he is more engaged and active. 

Dr. Frank said in some cases, certain forms of bupernorphine can also be used to treat pain in patients who have not previously taken opioid medications. The story is part of our series, “On Pain”, about chronic pain and promising treatments.