The United States is battling one of its worst drug crises ever reported, Opioid addiction, which has reached epidemic proportions. This epidemic has shown a drastic increase in the use of prescription and non-prescription opioid drugs since 1990.
Over 2 million Americans are estimated to have a problem with opioids. According to the latest survey data, over 97 million people took prescription painkillers in 2015. 12 million of these people used opoid medication without being directed by a doctor.
So, what are opioids? Opioid medications are drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain. The first identified drug of this type was Opium. Opium, a narcotic obtained from the poppy flower, has been used in civilization for thousands of years to treat pain and to reach a state of euphoria. From opium people derived a large array of other drugs with similar properties that act just like opiates but are not made from the plant. Opium, along with these synthetic drugs are grouped into the category known as opioids.
Here’s how these drugs work.Opioid medications binding to receptors in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body to regulate both pain and reward systems in the body. This mechanism is what makes opioids powerful painkillers, but also highly addictive.
Common Opioids used today include:
- OxyContin (oxycodone)
- Dilaudid (hydromorphone)
- Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco
- Demerol (meperidine)
- Hydrocodone (Hysingla Er, Zohydro ER)
- Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
- Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora, Abstral, Onsolis)
Opioids gained popularity among doctors in the 1990s for treating patients who had undergone surgery or cancer treatment, but in the last fifteen years physicians, especially pain management doctors, have increasingly prescribed them for chronic conditions, like back or joint pain, despite concerns about their safety. As a result, doctors are one of the leading contributing factors in the rise of opioid use.
Are Opioids Addictive?
Opioid narcotics are both physically and psychologically addictive. Since opioids stimulate the parts of the brain that are connected to reward centers, some users experience a “high” feeling when they take even legitimately prescribed doses of these medications. It is this feeling of euphoria that causes addiction to opioid narcotics, as users attempt to produce the pleasant feeling as often as possible. This often leads to abuse of opioid medications and in many cases, accidental overdose.
More than eight hundred people a week die from opioid-related overdoses. While millions of Americans suffer from opioid addiction, some experts say the death toll may not peak for years. Currently, drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, and opioid overdoses have killed more people last year than guns or car accidents.
Safer Alternatives for Pain
Safer Alternatives for Pain Chronic pain affects 1 in 5 Americans. In 2015, the NIH (National Institute of Health) released a study showing that 50 million adults in the U.S. have significant chronic or severe pain, Musculoskeletal pain (pain in the muscles, bones or joints) is the second leading cause of chronic pain. Often this pain occurs in joints like the neck and back but can also occur in the muscles, knees,shoulders, hips,ankles and hands. Another culprit in chronic pain are conditions like Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Osteoarthritis. The good news for chronic pain sufferers is that you don’t have to take an opioid medication and risk addiction. There are safe and natural alternatives that have been used through the ages, effectively.
Here are some safe alternatives you can use to battle your pain whether it’s acute or chronic.
1. Fish Oil- Inflammation plays a large role in chronic pain and fish oil has been proven to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. A study publshed In the Surgical Neurology International Journal, revealed that researchers instructed patients with neck or back pain to take 1200 mg of fish oil, daily. After 75 days on the fish oil, more than half of the patients were able to stop taking their prescription pain killers.
2. Turmeric- Curcumin is a naturally occurring yellow pigment derived from turmeric (Curcuma longa), a flowering plant of the ginger family. It has long been used in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines as an anti-inflammatory agent, a treatment for digestive disorders, and to enhance wound healing. Several clinical trials have demonstrated curcumin’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antineoplastic effects.
Curcumin has been proven to be more effective than celecoxib (Celebrex) in treating arthritis pain, for example. It has antioxidant, antiviral, and antifungal properties and it inhibits the function of molecules that play a role in inflammation because it contains high levels of natural pain-relieving COX-2 inhibitors. COX-2 is an enzyme responsible for the formation of prostanoids, (the fatty acids) which mediate inflammatory reactions that occur daily. It’s also effective for local site inflammation from minor injury such as a scrape or cut, and post-surgical inflammation.
3. White Willow Bark - Bark from the white willow tree is one of the oldest herbal remedies for pain and inflammation, dating back to ancient Egyptian, Roman, Greek, and Indian civilizations, as an analgesic (pain reliever) and antipyretic (fever reducing) agent.
The mechanism of action of white willow bark is similar to that of aspirin, Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra, which is a nonselective inhibitor of COX-1 and COX-2, used to block inflammatory prostaglandins.
Various randomized, placebo-controlled studies comparing white willow bark with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAID’s) have shown the pain inhibiting actions to be comparable
4. Boswellia Serrata- The Boswellia species are trees located in India, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Arabian Peninsula, and they produce a gum resin called olibanum, better known in the western world as frankincense. This resin possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, and analgesic properties. Boswellia can inhibit the leukotriene biosynthesis in neutrophilic granulocytes by inhibiting 5-LOX, thus affecting.various inflammatory diseases that are perpetuated by leukotrienes. Clinically, the substance is used in the treatment of degenerative and inflammatory joint disorders.
A combination of Boswellia and curcumin showed superior efficacy and tolerability compared with NSAID’s for treating active joint pain.
5. Devil’s Claw- Native to southern Africa, and introduced to Europe in the early 1900s, this fruit gets its name from the tiny hooks that cover it. Today, devil's claw is used widely in Germany and France to fight inflammation or relieve arthritis pain, headache, and low back pain. Animal and test tube studies suggest that devil's claw can help fight inflammation.
Devil’s Claw also has strong Cox-2 inhibiting power making it as effective for pain relief as prescription NSAID’s like, Diclofenac (Arthrotec), Celebrex, Mobic, Relafen. Phyto UltraComfort* helps reduce occasional, minor pain by supporting healthy enzyme and immune mediator activities
6. Proteolytic Enzymes - Proteolytic enzymes (or Proteases) such as bromelain (pineapple enzyme), papain (papaya enzyme), pancreatin, chymotrypsin, trypsin, and rutin play a key role in digestion, but did you know they are essential regulators and modulators of the inflammatory response? Italian researchers have shown that the ability of proteolytic enzymes to reduce
inflammation is equal to or superior to four powerful steroidal and non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Phenylbutazone, Hydrocortisone, Indomethacin, and Acetyl Salicylic Acid.
Proteolytic enzymes modulate the inflammatory process by a variety of mechanisms, including reducing the swelling of mucous membranes, decreasing capillary permeability, and dissolving blood clot-forming fibrin deposits and microthrombi.
In order to control pain you can use any of these natural alternatives, but for chronic or severe pain, we’ve found in our clinic that it may take the entire combination of these herbal remedies and enzymes. Let’s face it, not many people will want to go out and purchase 6 different bottles of supplements. In our clinic weuse a supplement called
This natural pain reliever is safe and effective in dealing with acute or chronic musculoskeletal pain and even pain from neuropathy. This is the number one formula we use for our neuropathy sufferers. For patients with severe pain, we additionally place them on Protease IFC (proteolytic enzymes) in conjunction with the Phyto UltraComfort.
Don’t risk all of the horrible side effects that accompany opioid medications, not to mention the risk of addiction. These natural formulas are by far much safer. You owe it to yourself to at least give them a try.
This blog has been provided by Dr. John Coppola, D.C. and Dr. Valerie Monteiro, D.C. Dr. Coppola and Dr. Monteiro are the founders of the San Antonio Neuropathy Center, and Precision Sport & Spine. They are the leading experts in the field of neuropathy and specifically drug free nerve repair. They are the authors of the critically acclaimed book "Defeat Neuropathy Now .... In Spite of Your Doctor. The doctors have over 25 years of clinical experience.
If you would like to reach the doctors regarding a specific health problem, you may email them at [email protected].
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