Opioids for Back Pain? Not the Best Medicine

Examining chronic pain and how it necessitates ongoing treatment using opioid medications is a heated point of conversation. As the war against opioid drugs continues to wage, new laws are being introduced to limit the prescription quantities available to doctors prescribing opioid drugs. Much to the dismay of chronic pain patients who receive tremendous relief from narcotic painkillers, the laws are passing. Not every patient exposed to opioid painkiller treatment becomes addicted or abuses the medications. At the mercy of the minority who do, the majority of chronic pain patients are in fear of losing the one thing that works: opiates. However, increasing amounts of research is indicating that opiate medications are not the best course of treatment for chronic pain patients. Even Pfizer, the manufacturer of Oxycontin, has admitted that their widely used drug is not the best choice for long term back pain. Additionally, they have finally acknowledged the medication loses its effectiveness after 12 weeks.

Opiate painkillers are made with different forms of morphine. When the body digests heroin, morphine is the byproduct. Drugs like hydrocodone and oxycontin are combinations of morphine and acetaminophen, or Tylenol. Working with the brain’s natural opioid receptors, the opiate drugs greatly inhibit pain. They also quickly create a dependency on the drug. Without abusing opiate painkillers, the body can still become dependent on their presence. Mostly, this is demonstrated through heightened sensitivity to pain. Toward the end of one dosage period, the pain unbearably returns, worsening until the next dose is received. Mistakenly, many patients see this as enduring pain rather than misinterpreted relief in the brain. Thus, patients believe they ‘need’ the drug because it is the only thing that makes the horrendous pain go away.

The debate is split. Some feel that for the chronic pain, especially back pain, patients for whom using opiate drugs is a non-issue, the prescriptions shouldn’t be limited. Others suggest that treating chronic pain should take a holistic approach. Therapeutic practices like cognitive behavioral therapy and meditation are being researched. Results show that overtime these modalities are equally as effective in reducing pain as opiate drugs. Not only does mindfulness meditation improve pain, it decreases the presence of other symptoms like depression and anxiety, which can exacerbate pain.

Refuge Recovery offers healing for mind, body, and spirit. From detox to sober living, our levels of care and programs of treatment incorporate mindfulness based practices as well as proven industry standards. Call us today for more information on our treatment programs for addiction to opiates (323) 207-0276

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