For the millions of Americans who suffer from chronic pain, the desire for a permanent solution is often met with prescriptions for strong painkillers. The National Center for Health Statistics says that 1 in every 4 Americans, that’s around 76 million people, suffer from chronic pain that lasts for more than 24 hours. It’s likely that this high percentage is why the use of opioids is on the rise, despite evidence to suggest that it actually worsens the problem.
A University of Michigan MD says there’s no need to prescribe opioids when alternative medicine offers better results for treating the same problems. Daniel Clauw, who specializes in medicine, psychiatry, and anesthesia, while also serving as the director of Chronic Pain and Fatigue at the University says “I haven’t prescribed an opioid for chronic pain in at least a decade.”
Clauw, who regularly treats patients with fibromyalgia, low back pain and more chronic symptoms, says that MDs aren’t solely responsible for the opioid epidemic. However they aren’t blame-free either. Surgeons, he says, “give these large prescriptions of opioids because they don’t want to be called back for pain … I get that that makes your job easier.”
Clauw believes that MDs are too hasty when prescribing opioids, and aren’t willing to investigate alternative therapies that may get the same results – with fewer side effects and no risk of death. His research into medicinal marijuana usage for chronic pain sufferers proved that components in the drug are just as effective. He’s not alone in his thinking. A Minneapolis ER decided to forego opioids for acupuncture and achieved great results, and other Western doctors are beginning to see similar results by embracing acupuncture and herbal medicines alongside allopathic medicine.
The opioid epidemic is a serious issue. In 2013, 250 million prescriptions were written – that’s one for every adult. The CDC reports that from 1999 to 2014 more than 165,000 people died from opioid overdoses. Another influential body to acknowledge this issue is the American Medical Association, that has established an anti-opioid task force to reduce the frequency of opioid usage.
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