As the U.S. continues to struggle with an epidemic of opioid addiction and dependence, one of the issues we need to further explore is the use of non-opioid pain relief as an alternative to opioid prescriptions. Although non-opioid drugs won’t always be able to serve as a substitute, there are situations where they can be at least as effective. As an opioid rehab center in California, we feel it’s important to discuss this as our country continues to fight the opioid crisis.
Prescription Opioids are Addicting
Throughout the country, clinicians vary in the number of opioids they prescribe. Sometimes, they wind up withholding critical pain relief from patients who need it. Other times, they prescribe opioids reflexively and excessively.
For example, a recent study found that doctors generally prescribe excessive amounts of opioid painkillers after surgical procedures, leaving patients with stashes of unused pills. The study found that the vast majority of patients who have painkillers leftover from their prescription don’t dispose of them. Keeping unused opioids increases the risk of future abuse and addiction. The opioids may wind up being misused by family members and friends.
It’s important to put a stop to unnecessary, thoughtless prescriptions. One way is to use non-opioid pain relief effectively.
When can Non-Opioid Pain Relief Work as an Alternative?
Oxycodone, morphine, and other opioid painkillers are potent. Derived from opium, they’re absorbed easily and attach to receptors in the body, particularly the brain and spinal cord. Many clinicians and patients believe that these painkillers are always more effective than non-opioid varieties. But is this true?
One recent study investigated 240 patients suffering from osteoarthritis. Their pain levels at the start of the study were moderate to severe, and they were prescribed either an opioid or a non-opioid pain reliever. The opioids were oxycodone, hydrocodone, or morphine; the non-opioid pain relievers included Tylenol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
A year later, the researchers followed up on reported pain and function levels. There turned out to be no significant difference in these measures between the patients who took opioids and those who used non-opioid pain relievers.
Does this mean that it’s always possible to use a non-opioid pain reliever instead of an opioid? The results don’t suggest that. The researchers focused on a group of patients who suffered pain from osteoarthritis. The study didn’t examine cancer patients, for example, or people recovering from major surgery.
Opioid Pain Relievers Are Not Always More Effective
However, the study does undermine the idea that opioid pain relievers are always more effective. Among this group of patients, they didn’t work more powerfully. Furthermore, the patients who used opioid painkillers were much more likely to experience unpleasant side effects.
Prescribing opioid painkillers shouldn’t be a matter of reflex. In some circumstances, they might be the most effective solution for managing pain. However, there are other situations where they aren’t more effective, and their use exposes patients to unnecessary risks.
Alternatives to Opioids
More research is needed to determine the differences in outcome between opioid and non-opioid pain relievers.
Researchers are also still exploring the different ways non-opioid pain relievers reduce pain or inflammation. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, for example, block certain enzymes. There are mysteries about the exact way Tylenol works; the mechanisms are currently under investigation. Non-opioid drugs have potential side effects, and it’s possible to take them at unsafe levels. However, they don’t affect the brain the way opioids do.
The types of pain relief prescribed or suggested to patients must reflect their individual needs, their unique medical history, and the current source of their pain. Without exacerbating a patient’s pain levels, clinicians should consider effective alternatives to potentially addictive opioid painkillers.
These alternatives include non-opioid drugs and also extend to other interventions. Physical therapy, therapeutic massages, different forms of electrical stimulation, and supportive devices are among the methods people use to manage pain.
Assistance from an Opioid Rehab Center California
In 2016 alone, over 42,000 people in the U.S. died from overdoses of opioid painkillers and illegal opioids, including heroin. Approximately 11.5 million people reported misusing prescription opioids. The unsafe use of opioid painkillers has fueled a crisis that has ravaged communities and taken a severe toll on people’s health and quality of life.
At an opioid rehab center California, people being treated for addiction will tackle the issue of pain management. With guidance from responsible clinicians, it’s possible to come up with pain management strategies that safely address opioid addiction and dependence. In a strong rehab program, patients will be treated with genuine sensitivity and attentiveness, and their care plans will be tailored to their specific needs.
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATCI). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.