In 2008, my brother died of an opioid and alcohol overdose after 20 years of addiction. Eleven years later it has gotten worse. Opioid overdose is considered a national epidemic with an average of 130 people dying per day. 95% of all pain prescriptions are written in the US. Today, people are now at greater risk of dying from an accidental drug overdose than from deaths from car crashes, falls, drowning, choking, gun assaults and pedestrian incidents. Although the US has the best doctors, science, medicine and healthcare worldwide, we have the highest quantity of disease, drug utilization and costs compared to other countries.
Currently, integrative options are not considered equal to prescription medicine and as a result are not introduced to the patient as viable treatment options, leaving medication as the only option.
Doctors are science based and want data to support treatments. Medical school training does not provide adequate training on integrative medicine approaches and focuses on prescription medicine. Clinical trials, including the use of prescription medicines, are funded by drug companies and although data for integrative medicine is growing, it doesn't gain the same support as traditional science. In addition, pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars marketing and selling to physicians and patients. Multiple drug company representatives enter doctor's offices daily, engaging in discussions that their drug is the best option for the patients.
While safe and effective non-opioid treatment options are available and can potentially heal patients, often times they lack representation in the doctor's office. As a result, they’re forgotten and not integrated into patient discussions as they should. Patients lack the knowledge and support to choose and maintain an integrative lifestyle that many of them so desire. Lastly, insurance companies have doctors so pressed for time they’re left with minimal to no time to think about new approaches that could potentially heal their patients even though they desperately want to. As a result, treatment plans are primarily focused on symptom control with prescription medicine. Typically, non-prescription options are only ever suggested when the first option (prescription medicine) fails. It is a vicious cycle that continues with each patient every day.
Integrative Healthcare Solutions is creating the catalyst to provide the education, access, support, and inspiration needed to stimulate a mind shift into the healthcare system and help save lives and end the opioid epidemic.
“Opioids” is a term for drugs that bind to opioid receptors bind to opioid receptors on cells in the brain and throughout the body. Your body already contains opioid chemicals, such as endorphins, which relieve pain and make you feel good during exercise. When opioid drugs attach to the cell receptors, they dull a person’s perception of pain even more.
Opioids also affect the brain’s reward/pleasure system, which can make people feel euphoric (high). Some people take opioid medications just to feel that high. If you’re taking a prescription pain medicine to get high, you’re misusing it, and putting yourself at risk for addiction and other health problems. Regular use of opioid drugs, even as prescribed by a doctor or medical professional, can lead to dependence.
The list of “Opioids” includes illegal substances as well as drugs prescribed by doctors including everything from morphine and heroin to prescription pills like oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine and fentanyl.
Even though heroin is considered an opioid and is chemically similar to other opioids, it is not a prescribed drug because it enters the body and brain all at once producing an extreme high that doesn’t last very long, so it doent do much for pain relief, and is easier to become addicted to.
Nearly 80 percent of Americans using heroin (including those in treatment) reported misusing prescription opioids prior to using heroin. Unfortunately, some people who misuse prescription pain relievers shift to using heroin because it’s cheaper and they can get it on the street instead of from someone’s prescription.
Acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, is another common and effective pain reliever. It is recommended as a first-line of treatment by the American College of Rheumatology.
These are more potent than acetaminophen, but also available in over-the-counter dosage. Higher doses can be taken with a prescription. NSAIDs include anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Aleve. The downside to these drugs, for older patients, is risk of organ toxicity, kidney or liver failure and ulcers.
Steroids inhibit injured nerves to provide pain relief. Drawbacks include the potential to accelerate joint destruction. Other side effects can include immune system suppression, gastrointestinal issues and psychiatric effects.
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