In 2016, more than 236 million prescriptions were written for opioids in the United States, about one bottle for every American adult.
No wonder that when you Google “opioid addiction,” the following alert from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services appears: “The U.S. is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic. If you or someone you know needs help, effective treatment is available and can save lives.”
While heroin is a common opioid, most Americans who become addicted aren’t looking for a high. Instead they’re frequently prescribed such opioids as oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl by their doctors to manage pain from back ailments and arthritis.
When opioids first became available, they seemed like the answer to a common criticism that hospitals failed to relieve their patient’s pain, said John Doherty, vice president of therapy services for Community Healthcare System.
“Hospitals were very concerned with patients coming to the hospital with severe pain and leaving with severe pain, and there was pressure to do something about this,” he said.
But as effective as opioids are at managing pain, they are also highly addictive. That’s why it’s important for people seeking to relieve intense pain to explore other options first.
“People now understand that opioids should never be the first line of defense in pain management,” Doherty said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nonpharmacological therapy and nonopioid pharmacologic therapy are preferred for chronic pain. A CDC study found that physical therapy, weight loss for knee osteoarthritis and psychological therapies are all effective in managing chronic pain.
“It’s important to treat the source of pain and not just mask the pain,” said Dr. Randolph Chang, chief medical officer at the APAC Centers for…