Ask an Expert: My Wife Wants Me To Stay on Pain Meds

By Janice Dorn 02/19/15
Today's question is about what to do if your wife and your pain management people disagree on how to handle your chronic pain.

I am in the process of kicking opioid pain meds I was taking for my back. I am actually also in a pain management program. So far so good on that front though it is slower than I would want and harder than I would like to readjust. Not so good on the home front where my wife is in turmoil over my mood swings. She almost would prefer I stayed on the meds.

The pain management people say we should do therapy together. She doesn’t want to. Yes, she is being selfish but telling her that puts her in fits. I am thinking about moving out until I am somewhat normalized even though I would hate it and it would really impact my finances and small savings. I thought someone in our group might have some guidance or out of the box ideas here. Any fresh thinking would be appreciated.  - Dean 


Janice Dorn: Hello Dean and thanks for submitting this question. I congratulate you for being in the process of “kicking” the opiates. Also, I think it’s great that you are in a pain management program.

I would like to know a little more about how you are going about getting off the opiates. Is this part of your pain management program? Is it separate and you are under the care of another medical professional for the opiate tapering process? I would also like to know if you have had challenges in your marriage previously related to your mood swings or other issues.   

It’s important to know the answers to these questions before I am able to help you with the issues you are facing with your wife. So, I am going to make the assumption that you are trying to get off the opiates under the direction of a pain management program - not separately. I am also going to assume that this is not the first time you have had issues with mood swings

I think it’s important for you to get a thorough work-up from an Addiction Psychiatrist. I am being quite specific about this in terms of Addiction Psychiatry for several reasons. A good Addiction Psychiatrist will be able to know if the mood swings you are having are the result of opiate withdrawal/discontinuation, or are part of a separate mood condition (such as bipolar disorder or depression). The psychiatrist would also likely have specific  suggestions for you in terms of certain medications that can be used to stabilize your mood. 

In terms of your marriage, it is pretty clear that there are real issues and that they are not going to go away easily. The fact that you say your wife is selfish because she won’t go to therapy with you is not helping at all. This is your issue and you need to fix it. If she is willing to stand by and go through it with you, she is to be congratulated, not made to feel foolish or responsible for a situation that is not of her making. Your sobriety is not the responsibility of your wife. It is yours and you have to own it and stop making it seem as if she (or the two of you as a couple) go for therapy, it will fix everything. It won’t.  In fact, it may make everything worse.

I suggest you focus on you and get the true high-level professional help you need from a seasoned Addiction Psychiatrist who is familiar with all aspects of mood swings and opiate withdrawal. Also, it would seem that time is of the essence for you right now. I would do this as soon as possible. It’s not too late.  You can recover from addiction and your marriage can be saved, but it is going to take action and work. I wish you the best. There is hope!



Janice Dorn, MD, PhD, specializes in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. She holds a PhD in Anatomy and has done extensive research and teaching in brain anatomy and physiology. She is also an expert on addiction to stock trading and on stock trading itself. Her second book, Mind, Money and Markets, with co-author Dave Harder, is scheduled for publication in the fall. Full Bio.

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