Are you on a medication to help treat or manage a condition? Are you on more than one medication for that same condition? Do you feel that you no longer need to be on medications that really don’t have clinical significance to your condition? These are questions that thousands of Americans ask themselves and their providers. In this week’s blog, we are going to discuss the rise of the opioid crisis and evaluate what can be done to reduce opioids abuse.
What Are Opioids?
First and foremost, over-the-counter medicines such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve, etc., are not opioids. They are non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and are used to reduce fever, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain. This is a huge misconception that many individuals make.
Opioids are controlled substances used to manage severe, chronic pain by interacting with specific receptors in the nervous system. Opioids need to be prescribed by a physician. Opioids are divided into three different categories:
- Natural Opioids- These are compounds derived from the opium poppy plant. They include substances like morphine and codeine.
- Semi-Synthetic Opioids- These opioids are synthesized from natural opioids but undergo chemical modifications. They include substances like oxycodone and hydrocodone.
- Synthetic Opioids- These opioids are created entirely through chemical synthesis. They include substances like fentanyl and methadone.
Why Are Opioids Dangerous?
Even though opioids are effective for pain relief, the come with severe risks such as addiction, overdose, withdrawal, tolerance, and death. Why do opioids come with severe risk factors? The brain, spinal cord, and other parts of the nervous system have pain receptors called nociceptors. When opioids enter the bloodstream, they bind to nociceptors and block pain signals to give patients temporary pain relief.
The biggest reason why people become addicted to opioids is because they change the chemical structure of the nervous system, which ultimately affects the brain. People don’t want to be pain and will do everything they can for total relief; however, remember that tolerance is a side effect of opioid usage. Over time, the body can become tolerant to opioids, requiring higher doses to achieve the same level of pain relief, which can increase the risk of overdose.
What is the Opioid Crisis?
The opioid crisis is considered an epidemic, which means it’s an outbreak to a limited region versus the entire world. The opioid crisis is an epidemic that is particularly an issue in the United States.
The United States opioid crisis began in the mid-1990s. A recent study showed that the United States increased from 50 billion morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs) in 1992 to 73 billion MMEs in 1998 to 92 billion MMEs in 2000 and to 250 billion MMEs in 2010. Physicians wrote 145 million prescriptions for opioids in 1997 and 260 million scripts in 2012.
Another recent study showed that the number of people who died from a drug overdose in 2021 was over six times the number in 1999. The number of drug overdose deaths increased more than 16% from 2020 to 2021. Over 75% of the nearly 107,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021 involved an opioid. From 1999-2021, nearly 645,000 people died from an overdose involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids.
So, how did the opioid crisis become such a nationwide problem? Opioids must be prescribed by a medical provider. Based upon the previous studies mentioned above, medical providers are the biggest concern to filling opioid scripts. Opioid deaths are also caused by prescriptions refill denials, resulting in patients obtaining supplies from third party vendors.
Can Anything Be Done to Stop the Opioid Crisis?
Significant efforts and policies have been enacted to reduce the number of addictions and deaths from occurring nationwide including stricter regulations on the prescribing and dispensing of opioids. Prescription drug monitoring programs help track opioid prescriptions to prevent overuse. Although this lowers the number of opioids prescribed by physicians, it doesn’t lower the number of addicts who find opioids through a third-party vendor.
Other forms of ending the crisis include medication-assisted treatment programs, and reversal drug programs to help overcome drug addiction.
How Effective is Opioid Usage for Low Back Pain?
In a recent study, it showed that recent guidelines have concluded that there is no evidence that opioids provide better pain relief for chronic back pain than nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Any drug taken for pain only masks the problem rather than fixes it. That is why chiropractic is a profession today. Chiropractors treat patients naturally without medicine. There is no other profession as unique as ours.
At our office, we see a lot of patients who no longer use opioids because of their successful journey through chiropractic care and maintenance. What makes our office so unique is that we specialize in non-surgical decompression and neuropathy management. Patients who suffer with disc injuries, neuropathy, or chronic pain are easily approved and prescribed opioids. With our specialty services, not only will you not need opioids, but you will be pain free.
The opioid crisis is a severe epidemic and threat to our country. Thousands of people die every year because they can’t deal with the pain anymore or the drug has completely taken over their nervous system. If you or someone you know is taking opioids for spinal pain and are suffering, please reach out to us. We can help reclaim your life.
For more information or questions about the opioid crisis or the services we provide, please call us at (724) 547-3377 and checkout our website at www.drlarrywilkinsspinalcare.com for more content.
Yours In Health,
Larry E. Wilkins, DC
Brian M. Steinert, DC