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Understanding Both Sides of the Opioid Crisis and Chronic Pain


man in pain

In the past, drug abuse was a term related to illegal substances. Today, prescription opioid abuse is one of the fastest growing types of addiction in the United States. Statistics from 2016 report 115 deaths daily from opioid overdose, 40 percent of these deaths arise from prescribed medication. New guidelines by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) limit the daily allowances of morphine and change the time span for opioid prescriptions in hopes of a change.

As the number of addictions and opioid deaths continue to rise, state laws target doctors and pharmacies, changing the way medicines are prescribed. Insurance companies are also instituting their own rules for coverage of opioid prescriptions. These new rules apply for all prescriptions, through the numbers of patients suffering from chronic pain have not changed.

The Opioid Addiction Crisis

Opioid deaths are at an all-time high and still rising. The number of deaths attributed to drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone is more than four times higher than in 1999. New laws are being created but opioid abuse and overdose deaths continue to rise with the release of powerful new medicines.

Lax laws and guidelines combined with the additional availability of insurance coverage have combined to create an illegal system of kickbacks, patient brokering, and nationwide opioid addiction. New laws hope to turn the numbers around as they immediately cut as much as 30 percent of opioid prescriptions. These cuts are likely to help prevent new addictions, but deaths are still rising.

Internet access to drugs from other countries makes it simple for any dealer with internet access to obtain opioids. To make matters worse, illegal drug dealers mix strong opioids like Fentanyl with illegal heroin, and unsuspecting drug users overdose immediately. The new restrictions do not help these cases at all.

The Hidden Victims of the Opioid War

Chronic pain sufferers and terminally ill patients are directly affected by new opioid laws. Patients with a legitimate prescription are seeing lapses in prescription refills, insurance coverage, and the treatment they need. At least 11 percent of Americans suffer from pain on a daily basis. Laws created in hopes of reducing opioid addiction are limiting and delaying essential prescriptions. Sometimes, medication is even cut off suddenly leaving patients to suffer extreme medical consequences and withdrawal symptoms.

New guidelines from the CDC suggest opioid prescriptions should be limited to 7 days. Guidelines also suggest a blanket limit for daily medicine dosage, suggesting higher doses do not change how effective the medication is. Some states have created exceptions for chronic pain conditions. However, medical insurance companies have imposed their own restrictions and confusing policies have doctors and pharmacies avoiding the use of opioid treatment entirely.

Meanwhile, patients are suffering. Treatment of chronic pain and opioids go hand in hand. Chronic pain conditions including cancer, fibromyalgia, and severe injuries where surgeries have failed are made tolerable with the use of these prescriptions. Opioid use can also make pain bearable for patients to achieve a permanent cure through physical therapy. Severe injuries, back problems, and surgery can take months to heal completely.

Finding Middle Ground

As the debate continues over chronic pain and opioids, it is clear that most people are in favor of alternatives. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, yoga, physical therapy, and nerve blocks are all considered viable treatments. However, these options are not always available or affordable to patients. Insurance that pays for prescriptions often does not cover these other expensive treatments. Physical therapy and chiropractic care is often used several times weekly for best results and are not always available locally in rural areas.

Communication is key to solving the dilemma. State systems have to be able to connect to other states to prevent addicts who cross borders. Primary care physicians need access to the treatment options used by specialists. Perhaps most importantly, health insurance plans will need to adapt to new conditions across the board if patients are to get the treatment they need. A federal solution may be required to truly solve this epidemic on both sides of the spectrum.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse and recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.

Reach out to us today at 877-426-9117 to speak confidentially with an addiction counselor, or contact us online.