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Do Opioids Have To Be A First Option For Pain Management?

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The opioid crisis has spread like wildfire over recent years. Between 2015 and 2016, more than 100,000 people died of an opioid overdose. Coverage of the loss of life revealed a startling, yet important fact. Addiction does not discriminate. There is no one kind of person who becomes addicted. Much of the opioid crisis has been attributed to prescription opioid medications. These narcotics are prescribed for pain management, for everything from a migraine headache, to typical lower back pain, to severe traumatic injury. For tens of thousands of people, what started as an innocent prescription by a doctor turned into a deadly and life threatening addiction. Doctors themselves became addicted. Professionals in the medical field became addicted. The opioid crisis spread from one end of the spectrum to the next.

What has been perhaps the most upsetting but transformational discovery out of the opioid crisis is that opioids are not requisite for pain management. Moreover, opioid medications do not have to be a first line of defense for doctors when needing to treat or manage pain. Numerous studies and changes in office procedure have found that patients respond as positively to alternative treatments as they do to treatments involving opioids.

NPR reports on a study published in Health Services Research in late May of 2018 which “suggests trying physical therapy first may at least ease the strain on the patient’s wallet in the long term– and also curb reliance on opioid painkillers, which carry their own risks.” The University of Washington and George Washington University collaborated on the study, using an analysis of more than 150,000 insurance claims for patients who had a diagnosis of lower back pain- an extremely common ailment, often associated with stress. Through a variety of analyses, the researchers discovered a few main points.

Researchers found that patients who saw a physical therapist before any other treatment were much less likely to necessitate opioid prescription treatment- 89% lower probability, to be exact. Additionally, patients who were primarily treated with physical therapy were 28% less likely to need advanced imaging or making multiple trips to the ER for their lower back pain.

These patients saw lower out of pocket costs, as one benefit. The greater benefit is a lower probability of facing opioid dependency or opioid addiction as a result of an opioid prescription. Somewhere along the timeline of the 90’s and early 2000’s doctors pushed other treatments for pain aside and replaced them with opioid prescriptions. Many professionals and researchers alike cite this as being a major contributing factor in the development of the opioid crisis. Now, doctors are returning to “alternative” forms of treatment, prescribing lifestyle changes, holistic healing methods, physical therapy, and non-narcotic prescription painkillers. Instead of viewing opioid painkillers as a go-to treatment, providers are beginning to regard opioids as a last resort.

Treatment is not a last resort if you are living with an active addiction to opioid painkillers. Make getting help your first option. Our Professionals Treatment Program was designed by professionals for professionals using the best practices proven to change lives. Call the Center For Professional Recovery today: 855-422-4129


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