Information for Safe Opioid Uses
The United States has an opioid epidemic, and it’s serious. Every single day, more than 130 people die as a result of overdosing on opioid drugs. Opioids, also called narcotics, are a class of drugs naturally derived from the opium poppy plant. They can also be scientifically manufactured, as many of the medications we see today are. Opioids manage pain by attaching to nerve cell receptors in the brain, spinal cord, gut, and elsewhere throughout the body. The chemicals contained in opioids can quickly alleviate pain and relax the entire body, making them a popular choice for many people.
In this article, we will not only look at the opioid epidemic and the problem with pain medications, but we will also discuss how to take opioids safely. Because while millions of people have a negative relationship with opioids and have seen firsthand the harm they can do, many take them safely as part of their pain management plan. If you already have a pain management plan in place that is working for you, yet includes opioids, we encourage you to discuss any concerns with our team. For some, opioids get the job done without any adverse side effects, such as addiction.
At Texas Partners Healthcare Group, we believe in working closely with every patient to ensure they are on the right path to recovery. Sometimes, this plan will change based on various factors. If you are interested in trading out the opioids for stem cell therapy, ketamine infusions, or another form of regenerative medicine, we can help.
What Are Opioids?
If you are one of the 50 million people (20 percent of the population) in the United States living with chronic pain, there’s a good chance you’ve popped a pain pill before. Chronic pain is persistent and can wreak havoc on many different aspects of your life. Whether you’ve suffered an injury or are living with a condition like degenerative disc disease, the pain can be almost unbearable.
Enter, opioids. Opioids, or painkillers, block pain signals from the brain to the body. They are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain from a wide range of injuries, conditions, and procedures. But opioids aren’t just taken for pain, unfortunately. Due to their ability to make some people feel happy, relaxed, or “high,” they are extremely addictive. Examples of the most commonly used opioids include:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
- Oxymorphone (Opana)
- Morphine (Kadian, Avinza)
In addition to the above prescription opioids, heroin is also an opioid. And while opioid use does not come without inherent risks, there are certain steps you can take to ensure you are taking the drug properly.
Safety Tips for Taking Opioids
When used correctly, opioids can be one element of an effective pain management plan. Opioids should only be taken under the direct supervision of your physician to avoid addiction and any of the potentially harmful side effects. Physician anesthesiologists, in particular, have specialized knowledge and extensive training in prescribing opioids for pain. If they are already part of your pain management regimen, you must check in with your physician regularly to make sure this is still the best course of action. Addiction is very likely and can have a devastating impact on the patient and their loved ones. If you have any questions about opioids, or if you are looking for a safer alternative, schedule an appointment with Texas Partners Healthcare Group.
What are the side effects of opioids?
When taken properly and in the short term, opioids can be extremely beneficial and alleviate pain. However, there are also numerous harmful side effects, including:
- Slowed breathing
Now that we know some of the side effects, let’s talk about how to take opioids safely:
- Talk to your physician or physician anesthesiologist before taking opioids
- Consider alternative medications that do not have an addiction risk first
- Keep a watchful eye out for any of the above side effects
- Only take opioids as directed
- Check the instructions every time you take a pill
- If you’re concerned about ANYTHING, speak up and talk to your doctor
- Never crush, break, chew, or dissolve the pills
- Pay attention to your timing and don’t double up (this can lead to overdose)
- Don’t share your pills
If you are experiencing any strange symptoms or if you have concerns about your opioid prescription, talk to a doctor. Stopping opioids should also be done under the supervision of a physician, as abruptly stopping them can cause other side effects, like insomnia.
Is There Another Option?
Thankfully, opioids aren’t the only option when it comes to managing chronic and acute pain; as we’ve discussed over the last several articles, there are plenty of alternatives to managing pain that don’t include opioids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids misuse them, and between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid problem. Given the dangers of an opioid overdose, it should come as no surprise that more and more people are looking for natural solutions.
Alternative Pain Management Solutions
As a pain management clinic, we strive to help patients of all ages get back on their feet and pain-free. We know how challenging it can be to live with constant, debilitating pain. The good news is that there are many alternatives to opioids, especially today, thanks to the advances in pain management we’ve made. Some of the most effective alternative treatments for chronic pain include:
- Stem cell therapy
- Nerve blocks
- Epidural Steroid
- Herbs and supplements
- Physical therapy
- Mind-body techniques
The above are some of the most common ways to treat pain naturally. If your pain management plan includes opioids and you are looking for another option, or if you are interested in ways to naturally manage pain, contact us today. We have clinics throughout Texas, and we are ready to help you find the right pain management plan today!