Pain is part of many Americans’ daily reality. As a result, so are painkillers.
However, according to a recent National Institutes of Health white paper, opioid drugs (or opiates) actually have little effectiveness in treating long-term chronic pain.
This is despite explosive growth in the use of the drugs during the past several years.
Opiates are a class of painkillers that mimic certain neurotransmitters in the brain.
Doctors prescribe opiates like hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Percoset) and codeine to relive pain and evoke a feeling of euphoria in the user.
The paper is a final report of a seven-member panel convened by the NIH last September. It finds many of the studies used to justify the prescription of opiates were poorly conducted or not in a credible amount of time.
Here’s the takeaway …
These opiates affect the body and mind in the same way the street drug heroin does. (Heroin is also an opiate.)
Although the effects are the same, there is a disturbing contrast on the general attitude toward these pharmaceutical painkillers and the street drug heroin.
The attitudes may be different, but the effects are similar.
Doctors and Dealers: One and the Same?
Opiates — whether they come from the pharmacy or the street — build up a tolerance to the drug in the body and brain.
Therefore, to achieve the same feelings of pain relief and euphoria, it will take more of the drug to treat the same pain levels.
This can easily lead to physical dependence and addiction.
That brings us to the real problem …
Opiates mask the pain, but they do not cure what causes it.
“That makes prolific use of these drugs surprising,” says David Steffens, chair of the psychiatry department at UConn Health and one of the study’s authors.
When it comes to long-term pain, he says, “There’s no research-based evidence that these medicines are helpful.”
Yet, the study found that opiate prescriptions have more than tripled in the past 20 years. In fact, doctors wrote more than 219 million prescriptions in 2011.
At the same time, the abuse of these drugs has also skyrocketed. Some now refer to prescription drug abuse as an epidemic.
More than 16,000 people died from opiate prescription overdose in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Now, there is still a place in medicine for painkillers.
After all, certain diseases and surgeries would be unbearable without the assistance of opiates.
But with drug overdoses causing more deaths than motor vehicle accidents for people ages 25-64, perhaps opiates should become drugs of last resort.
I came across some suggestions from a natural-health expert that could relieve pain without the need for potentially harmful medications. I’d like to share those with you today.
I strongly urge you to check with your doctor first, though, before you try any of these pain-management suggestions.
5 Non-Drug Ways to Manage Pain
Natural-health expert Joseph Mercola offers five potentially helpful ways to combat pain without pills …
Pain-buster #1: Medical marijuana has a long history as a natural analgesic.
Right now, 20 U.S. states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Its high amounts (about 10%-20%) of cannabidiol (CBD), medicinal terpenes, and flavonoids can be medically beneficial.
CBD, for example, has been reported to reduce nausea, treat inflammation, suppress seizures and fight tumors and cancer cells.
Some varieties of marijuana are low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — this is the psychoactive component of marijuana that produces a “stoned” feeling &mdsah; and is high in medicinal CBD.
The Journal of Pain — published by the American Pain Society — has a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis.
Pain-buster #2: Take a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat. My personal favorite is krill oil. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work; they manipulate prostaglandins.)
Pain-buster #3: Eliminate or significantly reduce most grains and sugars from your diet. Taking sugars out of your diet can have a big impact on controlling pain and other types of chronic illnesses.
Avoiding grains and sugars lowers your insulin levels and resistance. This also helps regulate leptin — the “satiety hormone,” which helps with appetite and weight control.
Insulin spikes can lead to the production of inflammatory prostaglandins. Inflammation can lead to pain, increased chance of blood clots, elevated blood pressure and more.
Pain-buster #4: Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular (but not too much!) sun exposure. This works through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.
Pain-buster #5: Use the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a drug-free approach for pain management of all kinds.
EFT borrows from the principles of acupuncture, helping you balance out your energy system.
It also helps release underlying and often subconscious, negative emotions that may be increasing your physical pain.
By stimulating (tapping) key acupuncture points on the body with your fingertips, you can balance your energy system and may be able to remove the symptoms of pain.
Mercola offers these five suggestions for “pain that is bearable … before resorting to prescription painkillers of any kind.”
If you do take or need painkillers, stay in close contact with your doctor to ensure you are taking the right dosage. Integrating one or more of these strategies could lead to reducing or even eliminating the side effects of harsh pain relievers.
Here’s to your health and wealth …
Uncommon Wisdom Daily
P.S. For a more in-depth look into the dangers of opiate use and a full list of 19 non-drug solutions to pain relief, you can click this link here.
David B. Reuben, Anika A. H. Alvanzo, Takamaru Ashikaga, G. Anne Bogat, Christopher M. Callahan, Victoria Ruffing, David C. Steffens. National Institutes of Health Pathways to Prevention Workshop: The Role of Opioids in the Treatment of Chronic Pain. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2015; DOI:10.7326/M14-2775