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Opiates and Chronic Pain Control: Finding an Alternative

Chronic Pain Control: Is There an Alternative to Opiates?

A recent analysis of the 2012 National Health Interview Survey published in the Journal of Pain found that an estimated 25.3 million American adults had experienced pain every day for the past three months. With chronic pain affecting millions of Americans in the midst of the opioid epidemic, finding alternative pain management techniques for chronic pain control is a major priority for the medical community.

Opioids and Chronic Pain

Opioid pain medication is prescribed at an astonishing rate. Prescriptions for opioids have nearly quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and yet studies show that there hasn’t been an overall change in the amount of pain Americans experience. While physicians are now encouraged to prescribe lower doses of opiate painkillers for a shorter period of time, nearly 92 million American adults–38 percent of the population–were prescribed opioids in 2015.

Treating pain is tricky. Some people might be able to successfully manage their pain using other alternative pain management techniques, but others rely on opioids to reduce chronic pain and maintain a high quality of life. For these people, reducing their opioid pain medication without alternative pain control methods can lead to a serious reduction in their ability to work, take care of the family, and engage in a healthy, satisfactory life. It’s crucial for physicians prescribe responsibly, which involves working with patients to find a pain treatment program that works for them, whether or not opioids are part of the plan.

Alternative Pain Management Techniques for Non Chronic Pain Control

A recent study published in the American Medical Association’s journal JAMA found that a combination of Tylenol and Advil worked as well as opioids for relieving pain in the emergency room. In the randomized trial, 416 men and women who went to the ER for moderate to severe pain from fractures and other injuries were randomly assigned to be treated with Tylenol, along with either ibuprofen or an opioid medication. Before taking the medication, the average pain score was an 8.7 on a scale of one to ten. Two hours after taking the medication, the ibuprofen  group’s score decreased to an average of 4.3, and the opioid group’s score decreased to 3.9. The lead author of the study pointed out that while opioids are generally more effective for treating pain, non-opioids can work just as well for certain types of pain.

Alternative Pain Management Techniques for Chronic Pain Control

According to the aforementioned National Health Interview Survey, two-thirds of people who misused opioids in 2012 did so to find relief from pain, while only 10 percent said they misused opioids to relax or get high. Chronic pain is a serious problem in the U.S., and a lack of insurance often leads people to seek out opioids on their own to find relief. The fact that many people obtain opioid painkillers from friends and family members who were prescribed opioids but had plenty left over to share indicates that American physicians are over-prescribing opioids without first trying other pain management techniques. This is a major contributor to the opioid crisis, which claims 91 lives every day.

Chronic pain control, according to experts, should involve a stepped-care approach that begins with trying to manage pain using non-drug alternatives, such as acupuncture, physical therapy, or yoga. If that doesn’t work, non-opioid pain medications should be tried, including aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen. And if that doesn’t work, opioids can be prescribed, starting with the weakest medications at low doses and increasing from there.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.

Sources:

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-analysis-shows-americans-are-pain

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/more-than-one-third-americans-prescribed-opioids-in-2015/