National Arthritis Awareness Month: Use of prescription opioids to manage joint pain may lead to addiction - Sovereign Health Group
Articles / Blog
05-16-17 Category: Addiction

Arthritis or inflammation of joints is a leading cause of disability in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 54 million people aged 18 years and above – representing 23 percent of all adults – are suffering from arthritis in the country. Studies show that arthritis affects people of all ethnicities alike but Latinos and African-Americans are more vulnerable to chronic arthritis-related pain and disabilities.

Though arthritis is prevalent across the U.S., California is among the worst-affected states. According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), arthritis affects about six million adults in the state. The CDPH data also shows that 51 percent of adults with arthritis report limited or restricted activity due to inflammation in the joints, stiffness and pain caused by the disease.

Watching the world outside through the window of her apartment in Anaheim, Orange County, 71-year-old Emilia Dolores (name changed) is a victim of chronic joint pain. She has been battling with rheumatoid arthritis for about a decade. Over time the pain and swelling progressed to all her joints but her left wrist, knees and one ankle were the most affected. For the last many years, visits to the doctor, cortisone injections and opioid painkillers to alleviate the pain and swelling became an inevitable part of her life.

But the treatments couldn’t control Dolores’s pain. Though her physician had initially prescribed her tramadol, it turned out to be ineffective, thereby further restricting her movements and limiting her daily activities. It was only when codeine was prescribed as an alternative, she experienced the miracle in her life. The analgesic effect of the pill not only provided the much-needed relief but also got her addicted to the high. Long after the pain vanished, she would still pop a pill to enjoy the feeling of being high. Dolores never realized when she got hooked on to codeine, popping several pills a day.

The chemical structures in opioids have a tendency to bind to the receptors in the brain, temporarily hindering the brain’s response to painful stimuli. In reality, what actually happens is that the pain doesn’t go away forever. It simply doesn’t bother the patient for a while. This immediate yet temporary relief accompanied by a feel-good sensation triggers a rise in pain tolerance, with every consecutive dose. This heightens the need for higher and higher doses to achieve the same level of relief, leading to total drug dependence.

A major health issue

Just like their fellow countrymen in other parts of the U.S., Californians are witnessing a sharp spike in the number of overdose-related visits to the emergency rooms statewide. Opioid overdoses are a reality in California. The CDPH data indicates that prescription opioid-related emergency department visits in California showed a dramatic 103 percent increase from 5,753 cases in 2006 to 11,683 in 2014, which is indeed alarming. Above all, trends indicate that visits to the emergency room due to an opioid overdose seem to be increasing linearly over a period of time.

Since California is one of the most populous states in the country with around 39 million residents as of July 1, 2016, the number of people suffering from opioid use disorder is astronomical. Studies show that the levels of California’s prescription drug abuse crisis differ greatly from county to county, and even neighborhoods within the same county are said to exhibit varying rates of addiction to opioids.

One of the reasons why most Americans are unaware of the dangers of prescription drugs is an inherent misapprehension about the drug testing and approval procedures. Many are led into a false sense of belief that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a rigorous testing and evaluation mechanism in place. This is actually far from the truth as the current system shrugs the entire onus of clinical trials and safety testing of a new drug on the pharmaceutical company, which develops the drug.

Exploring other pain management options

For effective long-term patient care, experts in the medical community believe that a customized and multi-disciplinary approach should be the way ahead. Moreover, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), pain management via long-term use of opioids lacks sufficient data to support its use, thereby throwing up new possibilities of other alternative treatment options such as physical therapy and complementary medicine. In its meeting last year, the American Medical Association devised policies to promote non-opioids and non-pharmacologic treatments for pain. Alternate pain-relieving treatments to combat opioid abuse and addiction include:

  • Massage: Regular massage therapy can reduce the pain and stiffness of joints and muscles in the body.
  • Tai chi: The slow rhythmic movements of this Chinese exercise is known to ease arthritis-related pain and discomfort.
  • Yoga: Several studies suggest that yoga can reduce musculoskeletal and osteoarthritis pain. However, those suffering from joint pains should avoid hot yoga.
  • Acupuncture: This traditional Chinese therapy where thin needles are inserted into the body at specific spots reduces arthritis pain and discomfort for some people.

“When conventional medicine fails to relieve arthritic pain, many sufferers turn to alternative methods,” says Marvin M. Lipman, medical adviser to Consumer Reports. “But not only is there little evidence to support many of those treatments, some aren’t even regulated.”

Sovereign Health can help

Doctors and health care professionals, together with pharmacists, can play a significant role in recognizing and thwarting any unapproved use of prescription medications. Efforts must be made to incorporate more evidence-based screening tools as a part of any consultation process, besides highlighting other alternative forms of treatment if required. The need of the hour is to provide citizens with access to addiction help, which includes useful information on treatment for addiction and non-narcotic methods to manage pain. Importantly, pharmacists must keep a careful watch to identify counterfeit prescriptions or any alterations which could lead to abuse or overdose.

As the nation is observing the National Arthritis Awareness Month in May, Sovereign Health understands the plight of someone battling chronic arthritis pain and is unable to discontinue the use of harmful opioid pain relievers despite the negative impact on his or her life. Our customized drug addiction treatment programs are tailored to individual needs in order to treat the person holistically. Sovereign Health of San Clemente’s pain program is designed to assist those individuals whose pain has led to an addiction of either prescription and/or illegal drugs.

If you or your loved one is battling addiction to any prescription drug, get in touch with Sovereign Health to gain access to the latest and innovative treatment methods at our state-of-the-art drug rehabilitation centers spread across the U.S. Whether you are looking for substance addiction treatment centers in California or other addiction rehab facilities at a place closer home, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know about the most effective rehab programs at our reliable drug addiction rehab centers.

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