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What needs to be done to address the opioid crisis in the United States? The use of opioids has increased exponentially over the past few years to the point where the US now has a crisis on its hands that is claiming around the same number of lives as car accidents because of the number of people overdosing on opioids they get because it is prescribed to them or they get it from an outside source. Opioids have gone from being a useful temporary solution for those that suffer from chronic pain, have had a recent surgery, or are a cancer patient, to being something that is overprescribed and causing an astronomical rise in deaths by overdose.
Just focusing on treating those who are already addicted is not enough to solve the opioid crisis. What really needs to be done to address the opioid crisis in the United States is that there needs to be a change in how people view pain.
Doctors and patients need to become better aware of the emotional and mental strain it puts on a person to be in constant moderate to severe pain.
Furthermore, there also needs to be more research into alternative treatments for those who suffer from chronic pain so that addiction to prescription pain medications can be prevented. Changing how people think of pain and finding alternative methods to treating those who suffer from chronic pain can prevent addiction to opioids. There are several alternative treatments for treating pain that don’t involve getting a highly addictive pain medication.
‘We need to start using a multi-disciplinary and multi-model approach to pain management.’ (Dr. Jacquelyn Corley, 2018). One alternative is acupuncture. ‘Many opioid addictions begin with patients in pain seeking help, and acupuncture is increasingly seen as a way to keep some patients from ever having to go on opioids in the first place.’ (Telegraph-Herald, 2018). They are still researching how helpful acupuncture is, ‘for different types of pain, the quality of the studies has been mixed, and so have the results.’ (Telegraph-Herald, 2018). Although they are still in the research phase as to the effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic pain sufferers, it nevertheless is a better option than opioids because there is zero danger of becoming addicted and it’s non-invasive.
A few other basic alternatives include, using ice packs, heating pads, Tylenol, ibuprofen, and physical therapy can also be helpful in some cases. All of these are better and safer treatment options for pain and should be considered and used before an opioid is prescribed. For those that have a chronic condition, the fact that they are in constant pain should not be viewed as a negative component of their life. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, and depending on what the problem is the pain sometimes never goes away. It is understandable that this is a depressing thought for almost everyone facing the reality of spending the rest of their days in discomfort, and for many that means being unable to do simple everyday things such as, going for a walk, washing the dishes, or picking up their children. It’s easy to take the simple things for granted until it causes discomfort for the person to perform the task. ‘In numerous other countries, opioid use is much lower than it is in the United States, even though the physicians there do many of the same surgeries. This is likely because patients receive far, far fewer opioid medications in and out of the hospital, due to costs, availability and doctor preferences.’ (Dr. Jacquelyn Corley, 2018). No one likes to be in pain but the general mindset is that pain is a negative occurrence that needs to be numbed immediately by any means necessary. This is not necessarily true. Pain is a helpful and a natural part of life. On the other hand for those that have chronic pain, knowing that they will have to deal with moderate to severe pain every day can be a seemingly hopeless reality. It can be hard to accept that their life is now limited to only being able to do certain things without causing themselves a higher level of discomfort. The people who have chronic pain should not only use alternative pain management methods such as, acupuncture, ice and heat pack, physical therapy, and Advil. Their physicians should also be paying attention to how they are coping with the pain because being in pain all the time can wear a person down mentally. And if they are struggling emotionally and mentally, they should also see a counselor to help them learn how to live with their new limitations in life.
It is a common argument that it is not possible to control chronic pain without opioids and that a person’s quality of life will be diminished if they are in constant pain. ‘Unfortunately, moderate-to-sever chronic pain typically cannot be adequately controlled with non-opioids.’ (The Examiner, 2017). A large reason for the gravitation towards pain medications for patients and doctors is because people don’t want to feel pain and would prefer to numb their discomfort, instead of dealing with it and adapting to it. Physicians have the first inclination to prescribe an opioid because they don’t want to see their patients suffering. Another reason for the popularity of prescription medications is because it’s the easiest solution other methods of pain relief require more work and don’t deliver the instant gratification people desire. But despite these common beliefs, it is possible for chronic pain sufferer’s to have a good life without leaning on opioids for pain relief. The key to this is for them to not become bitter about the limitations they have because of the constant pain they experience everyday. Once a person accepts they have limitations because of pain they can make accommodations for themselves so they can still live a full and happy life. ‘Coming to terms with the knowledge that a certain amount of pain is not going to go anywhere is invaluable. It can help you move past persistent frustration and feelings of defeat.’ (The Spokesman-Review, 2017).
In conclusion the solution to the opioid crisis in the United States, is to first help people to realize that pain does not have to be a negative part of their life. The second is to show them that there are other treatment options for pain management available that don’t have the risk of becoming addicted. Using other methods for controlling pain such as, Tylenol, Advil, heat and ice packs, and acupuncture can greatly help with pain levels and quality of life. Furthermore, dealing with the emotional and mental ramifications from dealing with pain on a daily basis is imperative to retaining a person’s quality of life. Therefore, the answer is to prevent people from becoming addicted to opioids by changing how they view pain and to help them find other methods for treating chronic pain.
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