Once believed to be helpful medications, opioids were frequently prescribed to patients for chronic pain management. Now, they have proved to be dangerous and highly addictive.
In 2012, 259 million prescriptions for painkillers were written, leaving millions of individuals struggling with an opioid dependency and chronic pain. Now, doctors who did not know that opioids could cause so much harm to patients are actively working to help individuals through the crisis.
How Did We Get Here?
Over the past two decades, there has been a significant growth in the sales and prescribing of opioid painkillers such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine, and oxycodone.
- Factors that caused a spike in painkiller prescriptions were:
- Heavy marketing to doctors from the pharmaceutical industry
- Not enough education on pain management and addiction given to doctors
- Excess promotional campaigns from private organizations and physician groups to address chronic pain
- Laws related to prescribing opioids were very lax
What is Being Done?
With a reported 78 people a day dying from opioid misuse, the American Medical Association has called for doctors to unite to help end the epidemic. Some of the measures proposed include:
- The use of Prescription Monitoring. The electronic database can provide the opioid and controlled substance history of patients to participating doctors
- An increase in education on managing pain and promoting safe, responsible prescribing practices. Additional training and education is also being added to courses in medical schools on how fledging doctors can prevent opioid misuse
- More support for overdose prevention measures, such as increased access to the life-saving drug Naloxone
- The reduction in the stigma of substance use disorder and enhanced access to treatment
- Ensure patients with chronic pain aren’t associated with negative stereotypes and can receive comprehensive treatment
Alternative Therapies for Pain Management
Another way doctors are battling the opioid epidemic is by offering patients alternative treatments for chronic pain management.
Anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, and antidepressant medications are just some that carry less potential for misuse and have the added benefit of also treating the underlying issues that often accompany chronic pain such as anxiety, depression, migraine headaches, and muscle spasms.
Holistic approaches and the encouragement of lifestyle changes are also being utilized by doctors to help patients through their pain. Acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic techniques, exercise, and relaxation therapies have been effective in treating chronic pain.
By doctors utilizing progressive approaches for treating chronic pain, furthering their knowledge of opioid use, and working with the government to help unite in the mission to end the epidemic, patients will now be able to regain their health in the safest ways possible.