You have severe back pain again, so you decide to consult your doctor. He prescribes you opioids - a drug that acts on opioid receptors to produce morphine-like effects. You've taken them for pain many times before, so you know they work well. So there's no harm in taking them again, is there?
To tell you the truth, there is...
While it may not seem like a big deal to pop opioids to relieve pain, drugs that fall into this category - including codeine, oxycodone, and fentanyl - are highly addictive and can cause serious side effects. To find out more, keep reading...
One American doctor says that opioids aren’t a long-term solution to relieving pain
According to Dr Antoine Douaihy, MD, a professor of psychiatry and medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in the USA, the longer you take an opioid, the more you may need to get the same effect. “They aren't an appropriate long-term pain
management option,” he says.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there’s been a “dramatic increase in acceptance” of opioids to treat back pain and osteoarthritis. Statistics show that the number of scripts written for opioids has almost quadrupled since 1999. Furthermore, the number of deaths from overdosing on prescription opioid medications has grown fourfold.
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We are in the middle of an opioid overdose epidemic
“Unfortunately, health care practitioners have contributed to this public health crisis over the past two decades,” Dr Douaihy says. “We underestimated the addictive potential of opioid painkillers [at first] and they’ve been overprescribed.”
According to addiction specialist Dr Indra Cidambi, MD, medical director of the Center for Network Therapy in Middlesex, New Jersey also in the USA, you should only take opioids when you’re in crippling pain. For example, after an accident or surgery. “Most of the time, for acute injuries, you don’t need it for more than a few days,” says Dr Cidambi.
First try non-opioid alternatives like physical therapy
If your doctor prescribes taking opoids for longer than a week, you should rather opt for non-opioid alternatives like physical therapy and interventional therapies (injections).
If you’ve had problems with alcohol or drug abuse in the past, you should be especially cautious of taking opioids. The risks associated with these drugs are severe, Dr Cidambi warns, including side effects like vomiting, depression
, dizziness, itching and sensitivity to pain.
If you’re in agony and do decide to pop an opioid, make sure to follow up with your doctor regularly.