Prescription drug abuse and addiction is a significant problem in the United States. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has declared it an epidemic.
Researchers estimate that as many as 36 million people worldwide abuse opioids. Estimates in the U.S. alone reached 2.1 million people in 2012. In 2014, six out of ten drug overdose deaths involved an opioid – including prescription opioids for pain relief.
Every day, 78 Americans die from an opioid overdose. As the Opioid drug problem continues to spiral further out of control, claiming more lives, people are looking for safer, drug free ways to relieve their pain. Chiropractic offers such an option.
What are Opioids?
Opioids are prescription medications that are intended for pain relief. They work by diminishing the intensity level of pain signals as they reach the brain. They also affect the areas of the brain that control emotion thereby weakening the perception of the pain as well. There are several very popular medications that are classified as opioids:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin)
- Morphine (Avinza, Kadian)
The most commonly prescribed opioids are hydrocodone products. They are used to treat pain from injuries, dental work, and typically moderate pain. Milder pain is often treated with codeine but it is also used to treat coughing as well as severe diarrhea. Overall, opioids are used to treat everything from cancer pain to post-op pain to osteoarthritis.
What are the Dangers of Opioids?
Opioids have a serious risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose. Even then they are taken as prescribed, opioids can have the following side effects:
- Excessive sleepiness
- Dry mouth
- Low energy
- Low testosterone levels that result in a diminished sex drive
- Decreased strength
- Increased pain sensitivity
Over time, the body can build up a tolerance to the drug which means that in order to achieve the same relief from pain they must take more of it. Physical dependence is also a concern, usually going hand in hand with tolerance. Once that point is reached the patient will experience symptoms of withdrawal if they stop taking the medication.
If Doctors are Prescribing Opioids, how are People becoming Addicted?
In 2013, doctors wrote almost a quarter of a billion prescriptions for opioids. To put that into perspective, that is enough for every adult in the U.S. to have their own bottle of the drug. Doctors prescribe opioids to their patients in an effort to treat pain, but most of the time it is just a band aid. Instead of seeking out the root of the problem and educating their patients on whole body wellness, they prescribe pills that numb the senses, cause unpleasant or even dangerous side effects, and create addictions.
As the patient develops a tolerance for the drug, the doctor increases the prescription. This cycle continues as the patient become more and more dependent upon the drug. They may even experience more pain as the drug increases their pain sensitivity. As patients become addicted, the number of prescription opioid overdose deaths is steadily increasing. The most common drugs involved in these overdose deaths include:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin)
States are putting measures in place to monitor and regulate how doctors prescribe opiates, but when desperate, addicted patients will go to great lengths to obtain the drugs they are addicted to. They will go to different doctors to get additional prescriptions or even find ways to obtain the drug illegally. It is a heartbreaking problem that is completely preventable.
How is Chiropractic a Safer Alternative to Opioids?
Chiropractic is a proven method for managing pain relief that is not only effective but safe and drug free. Numerous chiropractic studies confirm what chiropractic patients have been saying for decades: chiropractic care is an excellent pain management method. The spinal adjustments bring the body into balance but that is only the beginning of the benefits. Chiropractic focuses on whole body wellness so patients learn how to take proactive steps to treat their condition.
It also seeks to find the root of the problem and begin healing by treating the cause. Through exercise, diet, and lifestyle recommendations in addition to the chiropractic adjustments, patients can get relief from pain caused by injury, surgery, arthritis, and many other conditions. Chiropractic is so much more than a back pain treatment; it is a whole body, whole patient treatment.
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