Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the licit (legal) prescription pain-relievers, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others.
Opioids are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and nervous system to produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain. Addiction is a primary, chronic and relapsing brain disease characterized by an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Of the 21.5 million Americans age 12 or older that had a substance use disorder in 2014, 1.9 million had a substance abuse disorder involving prescription pain relievers and 586,000 had a substance abuse disorder involving heroin.
It is estimated that 23 percent of individuals who use heroin develop opioid addiction.
Source: American Society of Addiction Medicine
Calls have come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) for a shift away from opioid use toward non-pharmacologic approaches to address chronic pain.
Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, as have sales of these prescription drugs. From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people — three times the U.S. military deaths during the twenty years of the Vietnam War — have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids.
Today, at least half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve a prescribed opioid. In 2014, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving these drugs, with the most commonly overdosed opioids — Methadone, Oxycodone (such as OxyContin®), and Hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®) — resulting in death.
Regrettably, overdose deaths resulting from opioid abuse have risen sharply in every county of every state across the country, reaching a new peak in 2014: 28,647 people, or 78 people per day â€“ more than three people per hour.
The newest estimates on the cost of opioid abuse to U.S. employers is estimated at $18 billion in sick days, lost productivity and medical expenses.
An important non-pharmacologic approach in helping to solve this crisis is chiropractic care.
This discussion offers greater understanding of the scope of the opioid situation, the elements that have contributed to it and an approach that emphasizes non-pharmacologic care. Collectively, we must begin to extricate ourselves from our current ineffective, dangerous and often fatal reality.
Americans Want and Deserve Chiropractic Care.
For the overwhelming number of people who suffer with chronic pain, chiropractic care offers a drug-free, non-invasive and cost-effective alternative to opioid drugs.
Chiropractic is the largest, most regulated and best recognized of the complementary and alternative care professions. In fact, patient surveys reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine show that chiropractors are used more than any other alternative provider group and patient satisfaction with chiropractic care is very high. Patient use of chiropractic in the United States has tripled in the past two decades.
The importance of chiropractic care is further amplified since many individuals are prescribed opioids for back, low back and neck pain, headaches, neuro-musculoskeletal conditions and other related conditions. An estimated 126.6 million Americans (one in two adults) are affected by a musculoskeletal condition.
Providers in multiple disciplines and throughout the health care continuum are now advocating chiropractic care as a leading alternative to usual medical care.