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Healthy Community Healthy You – Opioids – Pain Relief That Might Do More Harm Than Good

By   /  September 24, 2023  /  No Comments

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Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough – Pain is a feeling that can be disruptive and agonizing to experience. Alleviating pain can improve quality of life, but the mechanism to do this has to be safe. Opioids are a group of pain-relieving drugs that attach to opioid receptors in the brain that signal the brain to reduce the feelings of pain and increase the feelings of pleasure. There are pros and cons to these medications that are made from the poppy plant. Even when used correctly (as prescribed and following directions), low doses can cause drowsiness and higher doses can cause breathing and heart rate to slow which can end in death. The ultimate problem is that the feelings opioids produce can make a person want to continue to feel them. This can lead to addiction.

What is disturbing, saddening, and shocking is the fact that between 1999-2021, about 645,000 people
have died from an overdose involving opioids. In 2017, nearly 91 people died every single day from an
opioid overdose. Opioids encompass oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, hydromorphone, and
oxymorphone. The body blocks pain when you take them, and over time, you need more and more to
acquire that same “high” of no pain. Because these are generally always covered by insurance, they are
more often prescribed by doctors. However, they have been overly prescribed and have become far too
popular compared to other means of pain treatment.

Pharmaceutical marketing has made claims of opioids being non-habit forming, but research says
otherwise. In fact, research is lacking showing that opioids aren’t addictive. Pharmaceutical companies
lure doctors to prescribe them with incentives and gifts (efforts have been made to control this). Today,
there are increased efforts to teach new doctors how to properly prescribe opioids with caution.
Doctors are encouraged to first try other alternative to opioids which include physical therapy,
acupuncture, proscription medications like gabapentin, and basic over the counter medications like
ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

Strangely, even with all the deaths and harm, opioids are still being prescribed and on the market.
There’s a vulnerable population that exists when instructed to take opioids. Mental and physical
dependence are never eliminated and remain a possibility for anyone. The risk of wanting something
stronger is also a possibility, and some seek heroin and fentanyl after their opioid experience. Opioids
are a confusing, controversial, and problematic topic, but not one that should be ignored. Justice for
lives harmed and lost will never have a solution, so today, being proactive and educated about our own
medical care is more important than ever.

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