Opioids. A word all too common to today’s society. Since the late 1990s, the number of opioid-related deaths has increased dramatically, having taken the lives of nearly 64,000 Americans each year.
The opioid epidemic is considered to be the deadliest crisis in United States history and overdoses have also become the leading cause-of-death in people under the age of 50 in the United States.
There are many theories regarding the opioid epidemic and how we got to this point. One thing is for certain is that it began in the 1990s and it started in the medical pharmaceutical industry.
During this period of time, medical doctors were being pressured to treat chronic pain more aggressively. In response to this pressure, doctors began prescribing long-term use of opioids so that patients could better deal with their pain. At the same time that this was happening, pharmaceutical companies were touting opioids as non-addictive and not harmful.
Doctors were prescribing drugs at higher rates and according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), by 2015, there were enough pills being prescribed to medicate every American daily for three weeks straight.
There are many who may not know just how addictive opioids can be. Studies have shown that patients who take the medications for as little as a week have a higher chance of developing an addiction.
It’s a common occurrence for those who have previously been prescribed opioids to begin misusing them. Oftentimes, if their supply ran out or their prescription expired, getting medication from friends, family or buying them illegally was how people gathered them.
This behavior led to the medications being harder to obtain and people turning to black market forms of the drugs or using illegal drugs like heroin, to help battle their chronic pain.
USE OF OPIOIDS
Opioids are used to relieve pain because they lower the number of pain signals the body sends to the brain. They also change how the body responds to the pain. Opioids include codeine, fentanyl, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and tramadol.
They tend to be safe when taken as prescribed, but since they are highly addictive, they can be easily misused and people don’t even realize they have an addiction.
This type of medicine alters the brain by creating artificial endorphins, which make you feel good. Overuse of them can cause the brain to actually stop making natural endorphins if opioids are used too frequently and at high dosages. Thus, the body becomes dependent on the synthetic drug and builds up a tolerance, which requires more and more of the drug to achieve the same level of pain relief.
ACUPUNCTURE AND OPIOIDS
Unfortunately, it seems this epidemic is not going away anytime soon. As doctors start to crack down on the prescriptions they are handing out, more and more people are seeking out other forms of pain-relief and that’s where Acupuncture comes into play! The stimulation of acupuncture needles improves blood circulation and helps you heal naturally. Undergoing treatment from Traditional Chinese Medicinal practices can also help your body begin producing natural chemicals that are used as painkillers, thus relieving chronic pain without the addiction. Acupuncture is believed to rebalance energy and qi (the body’s life force) in order to alleviate pain and boost overall health from the inside out!
While there are numerous ways to treat opioid addiction, the fact remains the crisis is one that will be dealt with for generations to come, both physically and financially. If you have additional questions about opioid addiction and how you may benefit from acupuncture treatments, reach out to us at (218) 724-3400 and schedule an appointment!