Over the past several years, opiate addiction has increased by an astounding 500+%. The opiate crisis has impacted millions of Americans—it’s hard to find a person who has not been impacted by opiate addiction in some way. In response to the dramatic increase in opiate abuse and addiction, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has implemented changes to the way doctors may administer and prescribe opiates. And while this change has forced doctors to lean more heavily on non-opiate painkillers as a first line of defense against pain, it has also left many chronic pain patients frustrated and unable to access the medications that keep them functional.
It comes down to opiate addiction vs. chronic pain, and it’s a lose-lose battle. With opiates, a patient’s symptoms are alleviated—but with the risk of developing a dangerous physical and mental dependency on opiates. However, without opiates, a patient will be destined to live with severe, debilitating pain—a road which only leads to depression and mental health deterioration.
But with these recent difficulties in chronic pain management comes a silver lining: doctors are at least aware of and talking about ways to reduce the risk of opiate addiction in both chronic pain patients and those suffering from short-term pain conditions.
Doctors now rely more on non-opiate painkillers, and patients find that there are non-narcotic options that are highly effective for managing pain. However, many insurance providers don’t cover these pain management alternatives in their prescription coverage programs, making these drugs inaccessible outside of a hospitalization setting.
Some states also notice a correlation between the legalization of cannabis and a reduction in opiate addiction. However, after a 4-year study which was recently published in Lancet Public Health, researchers found no connection between cannabis use and chronic pain reduction.
And still, ketamine continues to offer new hope to doctors and chronic pain patients alike. Ketamine has been known for its powerful painkilling properties since it was introduced in the 1960s, but has recently garnered attention for its ability to reduce chronic pain for up to six months in patients suffering from such conditions as CRPS, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, migraine headaches, diabetic nerve pain, and more. Because ketamine has a bad reputation as being a “club drug,” many people are skeptical of its use as an alternative to opiates. However, ketamine infusion therapy is not “Special K” rather, it is medical-grade ketamine administered in a clinical setting under close medical supervision. By keeping ketamine infusions within the walls of a clinic, the risk of the medication getting into the wrong hands, or of patients developing a psychological dependency on the drug is substantially reduced.
With or without an opiate epidemic, no doctor wants to leave patients suffering in untreated pain. Now that some attention is being given to the topic of pain management and addiction, hopefully we’ll see insurance providers expand their prescription coverage plans and patients explore a wide variety of pain management options—both pharmacological and therapeutic. Opiates have their place in the medical world—they are oftentimes the most effective way to keep chronic pain patients functional—but it’s important that patients are given non-addictive options to help with pain management. Addiction can be just as painful for a patient, not to mention for that patient’s friends and family.
Contact Elev8 MD Wellness Center
If you or someone you know suffers from chronic pain, reach out to Charlotte’s leading ketamine infusion center for a free, confidential consultation.