(BPT) - Opioids often are the go-to pain killer for everything from back aches and injuries to post-surgical pain, as evidenced by the more than 300 million prescriptions written each year. While they can help with moderate to severe short-term pain, opioids are not without risk. Because they have significant side effects, including an increased risk of addiction and overdose, the American Society of Anesthesiologists suggests those who take opioids ask some tough questions — including if it is time to consider alternatives.
Kathleen Callahan understands the dilemma. She suffers from a condition that causes painful cysts that required multiple surgeries resulting in post-surgical and chronic pain for which she took opioids for years. Despite being on a high dose of opioids, she still had chronic pain. So she turned to Anita Gupta, D.O., Pharm.D., a physician anesthesiologist who specializes in pain medicine.
“When I was on opioids long-term I couldn’t function, couldn’t be involved in my children’s lives and my work was suffering,” said Kathleen. “Dr. Gupta helped me manage my pain so life is livable. Now I exercise, go out with friends and go to my kids’ activities.”
“Kathleen and I had some difficult discussions. I didn’t think the medications were helping her anymore and I was truthful with her,” said Dr. Gupta. “She asked some hard questions, and I helped her move forward and cope with her pain. Since she’s been opioid-free Kathleen is vibrant and energetic. She has her life back.”
If you are taking opioids or your physician has prescribed them, the American Society of Anesthesiologists suggests asking yourself (and your physician) some tough questions:
* Are opioids affecting my quality of life? Opioids have many side effects, ranging from severe constipation, mental fogginess and nausea to depression. Kathleen said she was “exhausted, cranky, depressed, constipated and gaining weight.” She realized the side effects of opioids were worse than the pain itself, motivating her to seek other options.
* What are my concerns about taking opioids — or stopping them? With the media attention surrounding opioid risks, many people worry they:
- are being judged by others
- may become addicted or overdose
- won’t be able to control their pain if they stop taking opioids
Ask your physician about obtaining naloxone, a drug that can reverse an overdose. If you take opioids when you don’t have pain or use more than directed, you may develop a dependence. Talk to your physicians about alternatives to manage your pain.
* Is it time to consider other methods of pain management? Opioids are most effective in the short term. If they are taken for chronic pain, they should be part of a “multimodal” plan that includes other methods of pain management, including:
- Injections or nerve blocks, which can short circuit muscle and nerve pain.
- Electrical stimulation and spinal cord stimulation devices that send electrical impulses to block pain.
- Physical therapy, which strengthens muscles to improve function and decrease pain. Whirlpools, ultrasound and massage can help, too.
- Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, deep breathing and relaxation, which help you learn how to ease muscle tension.
* What type of physician can best help manage my pain? If you have severe or ongoing pain, be sure to see a physician who specializes in pain management, such as a physician anesthesiologist. These specialists have received four years of medical school and additional training in a medical specialty, followed by an additional year of training to become an expert in treating pain. They have the expertise to best help you manage your pain.
“If I was still on opioids I would be overweight, inactive, not involved in my children’s lives and depressed,” said Kathleen. “When you have a physician like Dr. Gupta who you trust and who shows you there’s another way, it’s just amazing. It’s night and day.”
For more information, download ASA’s Asking the Hard Questions About Opioids. To learn more about the critical role physician anesthesiologists play before, during and after surgery, visit www.asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount.
America is in the midst of an ongoing opioid epidemic affecting families across the country. Reports show that there are almost 80 opioid-related overdoses a day, amounting to more than 28,000 deaths annually. Accordingly, it is increasingly important that responders understand how to prevent death from overdose, including knowing how to use naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication.
Overcoming the Opioid Epidemic
(Family Features) America is in the midst of an ongoing opioid epidemic affecting families across the country. Reports show that there are almost 80 opioid-related overdoses a day, amounting to more than 28,000 deaths annually.
This figure continues to climb as over 2.1 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Additionally, the rise of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, W-18 and carfentanil are threats to those already using opiates as the epidemic worsens.
Where do opioid overdoses occur?
Data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that 77 percent of opioid overdose related deaths occur outside of a medical setting and 56 percent occur in private homes, meaning family or friends must often be the first to take action in an emergency situation. Accordingly, it is increasingly important that responders understand how to prevent death from overdose, including knowing how to use naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication.
What does naloxone do?
Naloxone, the antidote that reverses an opioid overdose, works by neutralizing the opioid receptors in the brain, allowing an overdosed person to breathe again moments after it is administered. It’s been used in ambulances and hospital settings for decades and is now available for people to use in their homes or other remote areas.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 10,000 reversals of overdoses with naloxone are conducted by non-medical bystanders. Without having a solution in the hands of those closest to opioid-related overdoses, lives are left hanging in the balance while waiting for emergency medical services. However, there is an FDA-approved naloxone nasal spray designed for use by laypeople, like friends and family, who are not medically trained. It’s needle-free and requires no training or assembly to use while providing a strong enough dose to help reverse opioid-related overdoses. Naloxone is only effective in opioid-related overdoses and does not affect a person without opioids in their body.
What can you do?
A majority of states have issued standing orders for FDA-approved naloxone products, which permit pharmacies to dispense the nasal spray without a physician’s prescription. If you or someone you know is susceptible to an opioid-related overdose, whether caused by illicit drugs, like heroin, or prescription painkillers, it is important to prepare for an emergency overdose situation. By having naloxone on hand, you can save a life when every second matters.
Learn more about naloxone at getnaloxonenow.org.
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
With concerns mounting about the prevalence of opioid use and abuse in the U.S., a new study validates the effectiveness of acupuncture and other non-drug health therapies for pain. The National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health compiled evidence on how complementary health therapies – including acupuncture, yoga, tai chi, massage therapy and relaxation techniques – are effective in treating chronic pain.
Effective, Opioid-Free Pain Management Options
(Family Features) New research is giving pain sufferers a dose of good news. With concerns mounting about the prevalence of opioid use and abuse in the U.S., a new study validates the effectiveness of acupuncture and other non-drug health therapies for pain.
The National Institute of Health's National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health compiled evidence on how complementary health therapies - including acupuncture, yoga, tai chi, massage therapy and relaxation techniques - are effective in treating chronic pain.
The top five pain conditions commonly treated in primary care settings - back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, severe headaches and migraine, and fibromyalgia - were evaluated. The study showed that acupuncture in combination with yoga is the most effective therapy for back pain and acupuncture with tai chi is the most effective treatment for osteoarthritis pain in the knee.
"As addictions to, and deaths from prescription opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone continue to rise, raising awareness on complementary and alternative pain therapies like acupuncture is more important than ever," said Kory Ward-Cook, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). "The research from National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health brings greater attention to the use of acupuncture to treat and relieve chronic pain."
Experts in the field are pointing to the study, which was published in the "Mayo Clinic Proceedings" journal, as a pivotal opportunity in shifting how patients explore treatment for their pain management. The findings support the benefits of non-drug approaches to help those with chronic pain more safely manage their conditions without the harmful side effects of opioids.
The study explored seven widely-used non-drug treatments:
Acupuncture: Using practices derived from traditional Chinese medicine, practitioners stimulate specific points on the body, most often by inserting thin needles through the skin. Nationally Board-Certified practitioners, whose credentials can be verified through the NCCAOM, are affirmed to have the education and training necessary to competently deliver acupuncture therapy. To learn more or find a NCCAOM board-certified practitioner in your area, visit nccaom.org.
Spinal manipulation or osteopathic manipulation: This approach involves applying controlled force from hands or a device to move a joint past its normal range of operation with the goal of improving health.
Massage therapy: Using hands (or sometimes forearms or elbows), therapists manipulate muscles and soft tissue to relieve tension and pain.
Tai chi: These mind and body practices involve a series of postures and movements integrated with mental focus, breathing and relaxation techniques.
Yoga: A generally low-impact approach to physical well-being, yoga spans physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation. Practicing certain sets of yoga poses may help reduce pain.
Relaxation techniques: There are several types of relaxation techniques, including meditation, that strive to bring the body to its natural state with slower breathing, lower blood pressure and a feeling of increased well-being.
Natural product supplements: Certain dietary supplements such as chondroitin, glucosamine, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) and omega-3 fatty acids are commonly used to help treat inflammation often associated with pain.
"Opioids are dangerous, highly addictive and do not treat chronic pain - only mask it," said Bill Reddy, Director of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium and a NCCAOM-certified and licensed acupuncturist. "To solve the opioid epidemic, we must apply the most powerful, innovative approaches to address the root cause of pain within the human body."
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
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