How Opioid Prescription Limits Hurt Chronic Pain Sufferers: Is Medical Marijuana Picking Up The Slack?
The U.S. Government has been making efforts to combat the dangerous effects of the opioid crisis. Regulation agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration are calling for the reduction of opioid manufacturing and opioid prescription limits.
As a result, chronic pain sufferers fear the unintended side effects will come at the expense of their pain and suffering. That fear is not entirely without merit, as even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discourages the misapplication of their guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
More, medical professionals fear that battling opioid prescription addiction with opioid prescription limits may encourage dependencies on other drugs like marijuana because of the ease of accessibility.
Opioid Prescription Addiction: A National Crisis
There’s no denying that opioid prescription addiction is dangerous. According to The National Institute On Drug Abuse, more than 130 people a day die in the United States as a result of an opioid overdose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the financial burden of opioid misuse on the United States is nearly $80 billion a year. This figure includes the cost of lost productivity, healthcare, and criminal justice involvement, among other things.
To battle the devastation of opioid misuse, the Drug Enforcement Administration continues to reduce the manufacturing of prescription opioids. Conversely, though, the DEA also continues to increase the amount of marijuana that can be produced for research by nearly a third. With more and more states legalizing the use of medical marijuana, chronic pain sufferers affected by opioid prescription limits are turning somewhere new.
Are Opioid Prescription Limits Creating Unintended Side Effects?
While the intent of opioid prescription limits on the part of regulatory agencies is a just and needed course of action, chronic pain sufferers who’ve relied on opioid prescriptions find themselves in limbo. Chronic pain sufferers believe the agency’s efforts toward opioid prescription limits to reduce opioid prescription addictions inadvertently takes away their ability to live pain-free, functional lives.
Likening themselves to diabetes sufferers who rely on insulin for a functional life, chronic pain sufferers now find their doctors cut them off cold turkey due to opioid prescription limits, and they’re suffering. Efforts to reduce opioid prescription addictions don’t necessarily offer alternative solutions for chronic pain sufferers. As a result, they’re turning to medical marijuana in record numbers.
This is somewhat concerning for many medical practitioners and board-certified pain managers. Research on the efficacy of medical marijuana pertaining to chronic pain is limited. Though growing, many pain managers don’t feel comfortable choosing marijuana as an opioid alternative yet, but opioid prescription limits then sorely reduce pain relief options for chronic sufferers.
Misapplication Of Guidelines May Lead To More Misuse
Even the CDC is concerned about the misapplication of their guidelines when it comes to pain relief for chronic pain sufferers.
In 2019, they released advice against the misapplication of their guidelines for opioid prescription limits. Concerned that chronic pain sufferers were not being treated appropriately, they advised on situations in which opioid prescriptions would be appropriate. They also recommended against cutting off opioids altogether, as many clinicians have taken their initial opioid prescription limits efforts to mean.
Worried about the risk to patients, the CDC doesn’t advocate abrupt tapering or discontinuing the use of opioids for chronic pain. They strongly recommend offering medication-assisted treatments for those with opioid use disorder when certified physicians recommend it.
Additionally concerning is the possibility of new dependencies on marijuana when opioid prescription limits prevent chronic pain sufferers from finding relief. Marijuana also has addictive properties, and the increased ease of accessibility may put chronic pain sufferers at risk of misuse as they self-medicate in the absence of prescribed opioids.
The Fine Line
Chronic pain sufferers feel limited in their options for relief. Opioid prescription limits force them to either suffer excruciating pain or sometimes, they turn to alternative pain management in the form of marijuana. Marijuana can lead sufferers to be dependent on it as well.
But, because nearly 2 billion people a year either abuse or depended upon prescription opioid pain relievers, regulating the prescription of opioid pain relievers is important too. This means there’s a fine line between advocating for the use of opioids for pain relief and having a concern about the propensity for dependence and addiction.
And as marijuana and opioids can and often do lead to dependencies and addictions, you need a place like Ocean Hills Recovery, where you can turn for holistic treatment and healing.
If you’re struggling with addiction, Ocean Hills Recovery is equipped with compassionate and experienced staff who are skilled in meeting your needs in successful and holistic ways.
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About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.