It’s difficult to read the news these days and not see the grim statistics about the rising opioid epidemic ravaging communities around the United States. People seeking remedies for their body pain, be it chronic or as a result of an injury or surgery, are starting to question their doctors when they've been prescribed medication like Vicodin or Oxycontin because they fear the risks these drugs can present. You might consider researching interventional pain specialists such as MidSouth Pain Treatment Center to find alternative solutions to opioids for pain treatment.
If you’ve been in a situation in which you’re taking opioid pain relievers, you may have experienced the difficulty of cutting back, even if your injury is healing and the pain may not warrant the highest dose.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 130 people die from an opioid overdose in the US every day. Even with the White House declaring the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency in 2017, the problem is still pervasive in many parts of the country.
Opioid painkillers are risky pain management options because they are highly addictive and can cause side effects after an individual decides to stop using them. Withdrawal symptoms can cause still more pain and suffering for patients already recovering from injury or treating a chronic pain condition, and lead users to relapse and overdose.
Withdrawal from Opioids is Dangerous
According to the American Addiction Centers (AAC), common withdrawal symptoms from opioid painkillers like Vicodin include:
- Irritability, confusion, anxiety, mood swings, and other psychological changes
- Intense craving for the drug that reduces appetite
- Tremors, enlarged pupils, sweating, diarrhea, over-salivation, shivering, goosebumps, rapid breathing, muscle cramping, and aches
- Trouble sleeping, including restlessness, exhaustion, and insomnia
- Cold-like symptoms, including runny nose, fever, chills, and nasal congestion
The AAC says it takes about seven to ten days for withdrawal symptoms to dissipate, but many symptoms can linger for weeks or months, especially the psychological symptoms.
Obviously, none of these symptoms are pleasant. As you near the end of your prescription, your increased tolerance to the painkiller will make your medication less effective over time as well as your withdrawal symptoms worse when your treatment ends.
Increasing Tolerance, Fewer Options
Painkillers like Vicodin can be especially dangerous because of increased tolerance and liver damage. Vicodin is a mixture of the opioid hydrocodone and acetaminophen (often sold over-the-counter under the name brand Tylenol). The high dose of acetaminophen in this medication can cause allergic reactions and severe liver damage and 90 mg of Vicodin is considered a fatal dose by the medical community.
While painkillers without acetaminophen don’t pose as much of an overdose threat as Vicodin and other similarly combined drugs, they still build tolerance in patients quickly. In addition to the effects of the painkiller weakening over time due to rising tolerance, the desire to take more than prescribed to get the same effect, juxtaposed with severe withdrawal symptoms, make prolonged use, addiction, and overdose significant risks.
It’s difficult to question a doctor’s prescription or recommendation, especially if you’re in pain, but more patients than ever before are turning down opioid painkillers in favor of alternative pain treatment methods that don’t lose their potency or make users dependent on them. The interventional pain specialists at MidSouth Pain Treatment Center determine and treat the root cause of your pain rather than masking it with opioids.
The Trap of Long-Term Pain Treatment & Opioids
Problems like tolerance and withdrawal are worse the longer you take an opioid painkiller. Typically, doctors only prescribe a few weeks worth of painkillers at a time, and responsible physicians will check for signs of increasing tolerance and dependency if/when they prescribe more. However, patients often find themselves taking pain medication for far longer than the typical recommendations for a number of reasons.
Chronic pain, for example, is by definition, long term, and many other common medications are not as effective for this condition. Some people with these issues may start to increase their dosage without consulting with their doctors in order to offset their tolerance. Interventional pain specialists will help determine your opioid intake and offer alternative solutions to help manage your pain.
Addiction to painkillers can also happen quickly. You can be chemically dependent on opioids after a short time, and even becoming dependent on painkillers after just one week of treatment.
This situation is dangerous for many people, especially those dealing with chronic pain. To ease their pain, patients take more opioids. Then they have to take more than the recommended dose to get the same effect after prolonged use. This can quickly turn into compulsively taking more medication than is intended.
Long-term opioid dependency is a trap. In order to treat your injury or condition, you need more medication, but at a certain point, the medication can become the primary threat to your health.
Opioid Addiction, Another Disease
Taking opioids to treat a disease leads to another disease: addiction. Addiction requires treatment, just like any other disease, and like many other diseases, it is easy to contract.
According to drugabuse.gov, between 21% and 29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them in some way, and between 8% and 12% develop an opioid use disorder. A small portion of those prescribed opioids eventually transitioned to heroin. Another scary statistic: 80% of heroin users first misused prescription opioids.
Even after a standard treatment cycle with opioids, even after your pain has subsided, it’s still difficult to stop using the painkillers because your brain has already been changed and affected by the drug.
No matter what your experience is with prescription drugs and other potentially addictive substances, the disease of addiction is extremely difficult to fight. Most individuals addicted to painkillers require therapy and other interventive treatments, and many relapse.
What to do Next: Seeing Interventional Pain Specialists
In the face of these frightening realities, what options exist for those in pain? MidSouth Pain Treatment Center provides highly effective, minimally invasive, interventional pain management treatments without opioids.
At several locations throughout Mississippi and Tennessee, MidSouth’s pain specialists offer treatments for back, neck and shoulder, hip and leg, hand and foot, and headache pain. MidSouth Pain Treatment Center has also started using a new treatment, ketamine therapy, to treat some types of pain.
Contact MidSouth Pain online or at (866) 707-1942 to see what your options are beyond opioids.