The Best Pain Treatment
The Best Pain TreatmentJuly 5th, 2018 by Cindy Perlin
The Marketing and the Reality
For over two decades pharmaceutical companies have spent billions of dollars convincing doctors and patients that opioids are the best treatment for pain. Not addictive, they said. The strongest medicine we have for pain. Prescribe liberally for both acute and chronic pain.
The marketing was very effective. Opioid prescription rates soared. But the pharmaceutical companies were lying. In 2007, one of the biggest offenders, Purdue Pharma, was fined over $600 million by the FDA for criminal consumer fraud for deceiving the public about addiction risks. It’s widely acknowledged now that opioids are highly addictive, often even after short term use for acute pain. Millions of patients became addicted and hundreds of thousands have died. Overdose deaths continue to escalate. Recently, the Council of Economic Advisors, an agency that is part of the Office of the President, estimated the cost of the opioid epidemic at over $500 billion dollars when medical costs, criminal justice costs and lost productivity are taken into account,
Still, many doctors and patients continue to believe that opioids are the best treatment for pain, despite the risks. There is significant evidence, however, that opioids are not the most effective treatments for pain. There is also significant evidence that there are other treatments that work better without the risks.
Most would agree that the best treatments cure the disease rather than solely cover up the symptoms. No one pretends that opioids cure anything. If a patient stops having pain, for instance after a surgical procedure, it is generally accepted that the remittance of pain is due to the body healing, not to the administration of opioids. In fact, there is research evidence that patients given opioids for acute pain are more likely to progress to chronic pain than patients who are not given opioids. Studies also indicate that chronic pain patients who take opioids have more pain and disability and lower functioning and quality of life than similar patients who never took opioids.
Pain is Complex and Causes and Solutions Vary
Pain is a complex problem that can arise from a multitude of causes. Nutritional causes include an inflammatory diet, deficiencies of vitamin D, magnesium, B-12 and Omega-3 fatty acids and ingestion of toxic substances such as aspartame, MSG and gluten (for some sensitive individuals). Muscle pain can arise from a sedentary lifestyle or injuries that create weak or stiff muscles, trigger points or muscle imbalances. Chronic emotional distress or a history of trauma can cause physiological changes which create chronic pain. These pain generators are rarely identified or appropriately treated, even though safe and effective interventions exist. Often, multiple factors need to be addressed for pain to remit.
There Are Safe and Effective Natural Pain Relievers
In addition, there are substances available that provide more effective relief of pain than opioids and are much safer. The most potent are marijuana, CBD oil and kratom.
Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Although legal restrictions have significantly hampered research in the United States on the medical benefits of marijuana, evidence of its efficacy for treating chronic pain and many other conditions has been growing. Marijuana has been used medicinally around the world for thousands of years and was in common use in the United States in prescription drugs until it was banned in 1941. Despite its long history of use, there has never been a case where anyone has died of a marijuana overdose. Users do not become physically addicted. Many patients who have switched from using opioids to using marijuana report that it provides much better pain relief without unpleasant side effects. Marijuana also helps with opioid withdrawal, easing the transition. Many substance abuse experts are now advocating for its use in addiction treatment. Marijuana strains are available that do not produce a euphoric effect.
CBD oil, derived from hemp, a close relative of the marijuana plant, is also gaining in popularity, especially in those areas where medical marijuana is illegal. CBD is one of the components of marijuana responsible for its pain relieving effects. Unlike THC, another component of marijuana, it will not get users high. Many long term opioid users who have transitioned to CBD oil report better pain control than with prescription pain relievers.
Kratom is a Southeast Asian herb that is growing in popularity among pain patients looking for alternatives to prescription pain relievers. It is a relative of the coffee plant and considered about as addictive as coffee. It has a long history of medicinal use in the areas of the world where it is grown, including for pain, anxiety and insomnia. Like marijuana and CBD oil, many former opioid users find that kratom relieves their pain better than opioids without any side effects and helps with opioid withdrawal. While kratom has a long history of safe use, the FDA is currently trying to ban it, claiming that it is an opioid that has caused dozens of deaths. In all of the deaths attributed to kratom, there were other drugs in the deceased’s system that could have been responsible but that has not deterred the FDA from making claims that kratom is unsafe.
There Are Barriers to Better Care That Need to Be Reduced
Significant barriers to the use of these safe and effective treatments for chronic pain include lack of physician and patient education, absence of insurance coverage and current and threatened legal barriers. Please become an advocate for better patient access to safer and more effective pain treatments. You can start by signing these petitions.