Overcoming the grip of opioid dependence

Sep 9, 2023, 7:29 PM | Updated: 7:29 pm

HEBER CITY, Utah – For Tami Bellefeuille, pain is an adversary and a teacher.

“We can’t always have the easy way out,” said the Heber City mom. “I knew if I was tougher on the pain, then the pain wouldn’t be so tough on me.”

Bellefeuille is a former firefighter from Illinois, who served in the Navy. She’s had back issues and pain for over 20 years, but now she’s built a plan centered around mindfulness.

“Learning how to look at pain differently,” she said. “How can I solve it without taking medicine? I could lose a few pounds, or I could stretch or do yoga.”

Tami Bellefeuille photo of her in the Navy. (Courtesy: Tami Bellefeuille)

Bellefeuille has recently been enrolled in Intermountain Health’s pain management program in Heber City. She works closely with physician assistant Troy Johnson, PA-C.

The pain program stresses alternative treatments and psychology to minimize the use of opioids. Some of those treatments include mindfulness training, yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy and medical nutrition counseling.

“Making shifts in lifestyle patterns can change your whole metabolism, your perception of pain,” Johnson said. “We have pain psychologists that help people with cognitive behavioral therapy or talking about other coping mechanisms.”

Tami Bellefeuille and Troy Johnson. (Ken Fall/KSL TV)

Bellefeuille has taken advantage of the help the pain program has offered.

“Instead of the pain controlling me, I had to get on top of the pain,” she said. “Learning the psychology of how pain works. And how my thinking affected my pain.”

About 100 million people in the United States suffer from chronic pain. That is 1 in 3, more than stroke, heart disease, or cancer combined.

Since 2017, Intermountain Health has worked to change opioid prescribing quantities and potency. Intermountain Health says over 13 million fewer opioid tablets have been prescribed since 2017.

To learn more about alternative pain treatment options, visit Intermountain Live Well Center.

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Overcoming the grip of opioid dependence