So what is more dangerous than cocaine and heroin combined? Prescription painkillers kill more people in one year than both cocaine and heroin combined. In fact more people overdose on prescription drugs than die from gunshot wounds. Emergency room visits doubled in a five year period of time from 2004 to 2009 due to prescription opioids.
In recent years the University of Wisconsin’s Pain & Policy Studies Group has been advocating for use of opioid narcotic pain killers. To quote their website “Improving global pain relief by achieving balanced access to opioids worldwide”. The group recently announced that they had been taking in 2.5 million dollars from drug companies that make opioids while advocating for using of opioid painkillers for non-cancer chronic pain. While the group has now decided not to take funds from the drug industry, this vignette illustrates how conflicts of interest continue to taint academic research.
While opioid prescription and abuse grows, there is much ignorance of the natural methods that may be used to control pain. We’ve seen many patients over the years that have suffered from chronic pain and have been able to help them control their pain through a combination of chiropractic, nutrition and acupuncture. While it is often difficult to keep the patient completely pain free, a maintenance program often can be successful at keeping them from needing medication and other interventions. Insurance companies however often do not want to pay for these natural therapies that work with the body while they will pay for prescriptions pain medications.
There are a number of herbs that are helpful with pain. Both camphor and capsicum are effective counterirritants to help control pain when used externally. Anti-inflammatory herbs include bromelain, cat’s claw, devil’s claw, ginger, stinging nettles, white willow and my favorite, turmeric. My preference is for the Meriva form of turmeric due to its enhanced absorption.
For people suffering from arthritis; glucosamine, SAMe, chondroitin, MSM and fish oils can be very helpful.
5-HTP may be of some benefit in the pain from fibromyalgia at 100mg three times a day. Also Balneotherapy may be helpful. Balneotherapy is a big word for soaking in a tub of bath salts. Tai chi and chi gong have been used to help control the pain associated with arthritis.
While we continue to explore the use of opioid drugs for the control of pain, the amount of money allocated to alternative therapies is pathetically small in comparison. This isn’t to say that opioids are not essential, as they are for a certain group of patients. They do need to be prescribed responsibly and used when needed. However the present growth and abuse of these drugs is a major concern. I’ve met families who have been decimated by a loved one’s use of these medications.
Our society needs to continue to explore alternatives in pain management. The VA has done some good work in assessing alternative therapies. Even using acupuncture in the battlefield to treat acute pain.
If you suffer from chronic pain please consider exploring alternative therapy before using opioids for pain control. There are some very effective methods that are worth considering.