Rough estimates indicate that some two million Americans are dependent on prescription opioids, though many experts believe that approximation is low. Between painkillers and other forms of opioid abuse, the problem has gained epidemic status. Those who become addicted to this class of drugs are at great risk of overdose and everyday nearly 100 people succumb to the side effects of opioid toxicity.
People who get hooked on powerful painkillers are in a tight spot, especially those who started using opioids as the result of experiencing chronic pain. Such people usually require detoxification and the assistance of an addiction treatment center, followed by working a program of recovery. While such programs are effective at addressing the addiction aspect, it is not as if one’s chronic pain is going to magically disappear. Unabated pain symptoms can, and do, steer individuals back into the cycle of addiction.
To be sure, there are in fact alternatives to opioids. They may not be addictive, but they are hardly as effective. Ibuprofen and the like can only do so much, a lot of people do not respond to acupuncture and holistic treatments. Which is why finding effective measures of pain mitigation could be argued as being just as important as ensuring access to addiction treatment services. Rest assured, researchers are working hard to find non-addictive medical alternatives that mirror the efficacy of opioids.
One of the reasons treating pain effectively and safely, is that it is hard to measure the adequacy of a drug or procedure, because pain and one’s response to it is subjective. Big pharma has had limited success at developing opioid alternatives for decades, CBS News reports. The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Nora Volkow, pointed out that drug companies pumped a lot of money into the quest years ago, but “failed miserably.”
Tanezumab is one drug that has proven to be quite effective at treating pain caused by arthritis and bad backs, by targeting outlying nerves, according to the report. The drug blocks pain signals from reaching the spinal cord and brain that originate in the muscles, skin and organs. Unfortunately, tanezumab, pronounced tah-NAZE-uh-mab, has been plagued by setbacks which have kept it from market, even though trial participants experienced great results.
The drug blocks what is known as nerve growth factor—a protein made in response to pain—which might affect joint repair and regeneration in patients needing knee or hip replacements, the article reports. As a result, studies were put on hold in 2010 but have resumed again, results are expected sometime next year.
The Future of Pain Management
Cell therapies, stem Cells and sodium channel blockers are being researched by drug companies. Researchers are considering medicines that can be injected into joints to relieve pain, or grow cartilage. Drugs like Embrel for instance do not act directly on the brain rather targeting the pain pathways and specific types of pain caused by arthritis. There has also been much interest in developing cannabinoid medications that lack the euphoric or addictive properties. For the time being, opioid narcotics will still be the “go-to” painkillers, but it is a good sign that scientists are working hard to stem the tide.
It’s important to keep in mind that there may never be a cure-all pain medication that lacks addictive properties. What’s more, relying on less effective measures of pain management are likely the lesser of two evils when compared to the insidious nature of dependence and addiction. Better to live in some pain, as opposed to putting one’s life at risk of peril.
If you have become addicted to your opioid painkillers, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat. Our Chronic Pain and Addiction Treatment Program can help you with the withdrawal process and begin you on the road of recovery. Under the guidance of our medical director, an alternative pain management treatment strategy will be developed. We have helped a significant number of people who have been in the position you find yourself.