In 2017 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in regard to the ongoing opioid epidemic. Estimated overdose deaths from opioids increased to 75,673 in the 12-month period ending in April 2021, up from 56,064 the year before. As opioids are frequently prescribed to individuals suffering from chronic pain or who may have just undergone a surgical procedure, they are highly addictive and can cause more damage than benefits when misused. Continue reading to learn about recent developments and alternative methods to treat chronic pain without opioids.
What is the Opioid Epidemic?
The opioid epidemic is best broken down into three phases, which from 1999–2019 took over 500,000 lives and continue to today:
- The first wave began with increased prescribing of opioids in the 1990s, with overdose deaths involving prescription opioids (natural and semi-synthetic opioids and methadone) increasing since at least 1999.
- The second wave began in 2010, with rapid increases in overdose deaths involving heroin.
- The third wave began in 2013, with significant increases in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, particularly those involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
New Developments for Chronic Pain and Opioids
Chronic pain is pain that persists for several months, or after the initial injury or trauma has healed. Chronic pain affects up to 40% of Americans, and treating it frustrates both medical professionals and those experiencing the lingering symptoms.
When it comes to taking opioids for treating chronic pain, opioids trigger the release of endorphins. Endorphins alter your perception of physical pain and increase feelings of pleasure, creating a temporary but powerful sense of well-being. However, when the opioid wears off, individuals often find themselves not wanting those increased feelings of pleasure to end causing them to become dependent on the prescription drugs, which can potentially become the first step in becoming addicted to these medications.
As researchers continue to look for alternative methods of treating chronic pain, it was just confirmed in a new study from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry that “a low dose of a drug called naltrexone is a good option for patients with orofacial and chronic pain, without the risk of addiction, said first author Elizabeth Hatfield, a clinical lecturer in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Hospital Dentistry.”
“Naltrexone is a semisynthetic opioid first developed in 1963 as an oral alternative to naloxone, the nasal spray used to reverse opioid drug overdoses. When prescribed at doses of 50 to 100 milligrams, naltrexone blocks the effects of alcohol and opioids. Low-dose naltrexone has been used off-label for years to treat chronic pain, but Hatfield said this is the first in-depth, systematic review of the literature to determine if the drug is indeed a good option for patients and deserving of more formal study. Low-dose naltrexone targets these cells that keep the nervous system sensitized, thereby reducing the pain threshold and the sensitivity of the nervous system over time.” – MDLinx
Chronic Pain and The Greenberg Method
In searching for a solution to treat chronic pain without opioids, Dr. Greenberg understands that the purpose is to find a long-term solution to your body’s pain, versus suppressing the issue with opioids. For that reason, patients who visit Greenberg Regenerative Medicine are evaluated using the Greenberg Method. During this examination process, Dr. Greenberg evaluates and treats other areas of damage that can cause pain in other parts of the body that may be overlooked. For example, an examination of the knees along with the pelvis, gait, and foot stance, may find that pelvic tilt is contributing to the patient’s pain in their knee. An isolated joint treatment ignores physiology and the evaluation of movement, while the Greenberg Method’s comprehensive diagnosis is able to create a successful treatment plan for patients utilizing stem cell therapy, prolotherapy, platelet-rich plasma (PRP), or a combination of each!
See below how Dr. Greenberg identifies the root cause of a patient experiencing chronic neck pain.
Looking to treat your pain safely while improving the quality of your life? Schedule a consultation with Greenberg Regenerative Medicine’s team to determine a plan that is best suited for your needs.