Why Treating Chronic Pain with Opioids is a Bad Idea

August 15, 2020 0 Comment
poppy plant, opioid addiction

History of Opioids – How It Treats Chronic Pain

People who suffer from chronic pain often face the option of taking pain medication. Most times prescribed by their doctor. While typically taking medication prescribed by your doctor is recommended, pain medication like Opioids can have some serious side effects and possibly a long fall down the rabbit hole. Want an alternative way to get help with pain? Contact us for a consultation.

Opioids play a unique role in society nowadays. They are widely feared solutions to pain, which are associated with abuse, addiction, and overdose. Sadly, they are also essential medications, the most effective drugs for the relief of pain and suffering. Surprisingly, the concerns about addiction have contributed to the undertreatment of certain disorders widely considered to be appropriate for opioid therapy, including cancer pain, hospice pain, and acute pain.

History of Opioids

Opioids for pain, pain management

Where did opioids come from? To really dig into the history of these pain-numbing drugs, we go back to 3400 BC. In Mesopotamia, the Sumerians were among the first people to cultivate and harvest the poppy plant for this purpose. Back then, they named the plant Hul Gil, meaning the “joy plant” — I’m sure you can understand how it got that name.

Eventually, the rest of the world caught on to their methods and it spread throughout the ancient world to every major civilization in Europe and Asia. Hul Gil, the poppy plant, became a popular ingredient used to treat pain and many other ailments.

In the 19th century, the treatment gained a lot of attention and transformed the practice of medicine for pain suffering patients. There was tension in making the drugs available to prescribe and the debate of it becoming an abusive and addictive substance leading to devastating consequences if used incorrectly. 

The Creation of Morphine 

lab testing, commuting causing high blood pressure

As many different types of synthetic drugs were developed, Morphine, an opioid analgesic, was created in 1803. It was extracted from opium and administered through the hypodermic needle and used it to inject morphine to relieve pain. As the drug continued to develop, they discovered this drug was addictive and produced the first accurate description of addiction to morphine. Defining the withdrawal syndrome and relapse from taking Morphine, and argued that craving for morphine was a physiological issue. 

Within the last decade, there were many research advances and major changes in the way opioids were used for the treatment of pain and addiction. It became very clear there were issues with these drugs including dependency throughout the world. Internationally they created opioid maintenance therapy, managing patients’ addiction and probability to become addicted. In the United States, the long-term use of opioid therapy to treat chronic pain was contraindicated by the risk of addiction, increased disability, and lack of efficacy over time.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that the number of first-time abusers of prescription opioids increased from 628,000 in 1990 to 2.4 million in 2004. An astonishing jump within a 15-year span.

Why Treating Chronic Pain with Opioids is Doomed to Fail

Chronic pain has been described as pain that has persisted for at least 3 months. Pain followed by the usual healing time of an injury or disease. The pain that recurs frequently over a period of months or indefinitely. No one wants to be in pain and opioids have found their way into the medical field of being the quick fix even when the repercussions are so great. When a doctor prescribed opioids, addictive disorders among chronic pain patients are difficult to determine.

Opioid therapy is the mainstay approach for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. Considering the high possibility of addiction and dependencies, this could seem like a bad idea. In a recent US study, patients taking opioids prescribed by doctors to treat chronic pain 35% to 45% of case studies experienced drug-related behavior.

Plenty of studies have been conducted stating that doctors of all sections of the medical field have been issuing opioids inappropriately. 

As a Pain Specialist, opioids may be the right choice for some situations but should not be the first choice in getting help with chronic pain. Our bodies are designed to repair and rebuild. We definitely aren’t’ telling you doctors are always wrong but more importantly being well informed about your choice on what to put into your body. Knowing the risks, side effects, and long term impairments are crucial to making a proper decision on your path to recovery. 

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