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Alternative pain treatments to circumvent opioid abuse
Posted in Addiction, Treatment

Texans understand wildfires; there is a difference between containment and control of a blaze. Containment is the measure, in percentage, of how much of the fire is surrounded and its spread stopped. Control is a whole other ballgame; it’s the switch from defense to offense – when the perimeter is fully outlined and expected to hold.

In the inferno that is the opioid epidemic, the flames have licked us coast to coast, and virtually everyone knows someone who has been burned by addiction or overdose. For many, the addictions began after chronic pain medicines transformed prescription users into desperate abusers.

Now that the government is passing bipartisan legislation to begin to contain the opioid epidemic on the perimeter, several alternative pain treatments have been developed to help extinguish overuse at its epicenter.

Substitutes to painkiller prescriptions

The Centers for Disease Control emphasizes clinicians need to openly brainstorm with patients about whether to start or continue opioid therapy. Part of the issue with addiction being a disease is that – like any other disease – addictive genes can be hereditary. Compounded with a person’s environment and personal stressors, the threat of becoming addicted to a drug can be more imminent for one person than another.

The CDC warns that, “given potentially serious risks of long-term opioid therapy, clinicians should ensure that patients are aware of potential benefits of, harms of, and alternatives to opioids.”

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), “nonopioid therapy is preferred for treatment of chronic pain.” Here are a few alternatives to high potency, long-acting painkiller medications.

  1. Nonpharmacologic treatments. Chronic pain is as much fueled by the brain as by the body according to some experts. Hence, JAMA suggests supplementing medicine with physical and exercise therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and interventional treatments such as brain, nerve and joint stimulation.
  2. Nonopioid pharmacologic treatments. For diagnosed chronic pain patients JAMA delineates other options. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen and naproxen), acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), antidepressants and anticonvulsants.
  3. Immediate-release opioids. Extended-release or long-acting opioids were more responsible for nonfatal overdose than immediate-release opioids, according to a study published in 2015.
  4. Abuse resistant opioids. Just this June, a Federal Drug Administration advisory panel recommended a long-acting opioid that has – albeit small – antiabuse properties. Teva pharmaceuticals’ Vantrela ER has layers that act as barriers to help deter crushing and inhaling or injecting the drug; it doesn’t help so much with popping too many pills however.

Jeanmarie Perrone, M.D., professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania cautions against the 12-hour painkiller. “I’m really concerned about the number of very high-dose opioids on the market, and this is just another high-dose drug,” she said.

Sovereign Health of Texas uses a biopsychosocial assessment to customize treatment specific to each individual with substance abuse or a dual diagnosis of addiction and mental disorder. No matter if you’ve come to a dark place through substance use or mental breakdown, Sovereign uses cognitive and alternative therapies to overcome the firestorm and give you back control of your life. Call for more info.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at


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