Opioid Dangers

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How do we define pain? Most people will face pain of one type or another at one time or another during their lifetime.  Most people may suffer from occasional back pain or joint pain such as the knee or hip which typically goes away after a week or two, also called acute pain. Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts at least 12 weeks.  Chronic pain effects an estimated 20 percent of the United States population or about  50 million people.  Unlike acute pain that typically lasts for a short period following an injury or trauma, chronic pain can last for weeks, months, or even years.

What is the impact of pain? Living with chronic pain can be difficult, it can affect many different aspects of your life, including relationships, your activities, your work, and your overall happiness. Because of this, it is no wonder many people turn to pain medications to find relief.

Why not just treat all pain with opioids? There are several different types of pain medications.  Some are available over the counter such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and Naproxen and several topical medications that include menthol and lidocaine.  Each are meant for short term use.  For instance, taking too much of acetaminophen may damage your liver.  On the other hand, taking too much or for too long of ibuprofen or naproxen can damage your kidneys or cause an ulcer.  Similarly, opioids, also have their share of side effects.  What is most concerning is that in 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose.  To be fair, this statistic includes illegal and injectable forms of opioids such as heroin and fentanyl.  However, in 2017, over 1.7 million Americans were diagnosed with substance abuse disorders related to prescription opioid pain medications.  Opioids can become addicting.

What is an opioid?  Unlike non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s), opioids work on the central nervous system including the spinal cord and the brain.  They do not remove or change the source of the pain but only change the way we perceive pain.  Commonly prescribed opioids include tramadol, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, and fentanyl.  Opioids are known to lose their effectiveness over time due to something called tolerance.  Our bodies grow used to always having opioid medications.  Tolerance may require increasing the dose or going to a stronger more potent opioid. 

What are other options? While we understand that there is a use for opioids, because it is in effect managing pain, it is not doing anything about the cause of it.  This is where we at Southwest Pain Management use our expertise to formulate a plan with you that not only includes pain medications but also targets the source of your pain with several types of injections.  The goal here is to treat the problem rather than cover it up.  There are anti-inflammatory type injections to treat pain from inflammation.  We also offer regenerative options such as PRP, adult stem cells, and amnion tissue to treat pain yet another way. 

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