Addressing the Opioid Crisis with Alternative Treatments
Every day, an average of 115 Americans die due to opioid overdose. In Texas, this fatality rate has increased by an average of 10% per year since 2014. Anyone who takes opioids, even for a short time, is at risk of developing an addiction or dependence. It’s sometimes impossible to predict who will be more vulnerable to dependency and eventual abuse. It is crucial that we in the medical community are sensitive to each patient and proactively find opioid alternatives for pain management.

Whether a patient is legally prescribed opioids or obtains them illegally, the risk of potential addiction is extremely high. This is why many medical professionals have become acutely aware of the risks of prescribing opioids to their patients – especially in the long term. The length of time during which a patient is taking opioids also plays a large role in their risk of dependency. After just five days on opioids, the odds of still being on them a year later increase greatly.

Terms to Know
The definitions of opioid addiction, opioid tolerance and physical dependence of opioids are as follows:

Addiction: Opioid addiction can involve both genetic and psychological factors. Addiction presents as a craving for an abused substance, resulting in continuous compulsive use regardless of the harm it’s causing. Environmental influences can also play a role in influencing the development and continuation of the addictive behavior.

Tolerance: Opioid tolerance is a symptom of prolonged exposure to the medication. The longer a patient takes opioids, the less effective the same dose becomes over time. This results in needing to progressively increase the amount of the substance taken in order to get the same result.

Physical Dependence: Physical dependence is most commonly observed in the form of drug withdrawal symptoms if a dose is missed, significantly reduced, or if it’s stopped completely. These symptoms can last anywhere from six hours to several days after the drug has been stopped. Some symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sweating, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Although physical dependence isn’t always indicative of addiction, it can be dangerous if experienced without medical supervision.

Exploring Opioid Alternatives
One of the most effective things a physician can do to protect their patients from developing an addiction to opioids is to find alternative treatments for chronic and severe pain. If a patient is living with chronic pain, opioids aren’t always a safe and effective treatment. The long-term risks of abuse and eventual overdose are too high; and, if a patient is dealing with short-term pain from an injury, surgery or illness, there are other alternatives that can be considered, as well.

Because there are alternative options that can treat chronic and severe pain effectively and safely, opioid prescription can be greatly reduced, and patients can have low-risk and effective pain treatments. Some prescription treatments Dr. Axline offers include both compounded creams and patches.

Topical pain medications such as creams and patches can effectively treat pain without the side effects and risks of opioids. Both creams and patches can be used safely for long-term treatment and can be altered for a comprehensive treatment based on the patient’s needs and symptoms. They can be applied directly onto the skin and absorbed into the system to deliver pain relief precisely to the site of the pain. Because they don’t require digestion in order to begin working, the relief can be much quicker. Many side effects normally related to oral pain relief delivery such as constipation, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea and, in the case of opioids, addiction, can be reduced and even eliminated.

Custom Compounded Creams
Custom compounded creams allow prescribers to create a versatile and comprehensive treatment for pain. These creams are custom made for a patient’s specific pain type. By combining two to five different types of medicines, Dr. Axline is able to create a cream that will target each type of pain on a patient-by-patient basis. For those patients experiencing several different pain types, this treatment alternative can be highly effective.

Prescription Patches
Prescription patches for pain relief are available in different sizes to be used on different parts of the body. They contain a high concentration of pain medications and adhere directly to the site of the pain.

If you’re taking opioids and have noticed an increase in your tolerance, be sure to ask your doctor for help.

Would you like to learn more about how to treat your chronic or severe pain with a safe alternative to opioids? Contact us today to make an appointment!

Dr. Axline