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Negative Effects of Opioid Painkillers Outweigh the Benefits in Treating Chronic Pain

Pain is a normal part of our lives and we all have to deal with it at one point or another. Go into any home and open up their medicine cabinet and they will have a battery of medical staples specifically designed to deal with pain. However, for some people who suffer from chronic pain, these over the counter medications are not enough to relieve them of their discomfort.

When you’re dealing with chronic pain much more is involved than just the discomfort of pain. It doesn’t matter if your pain could is the result of an injury or an illness, you can fully expect that your life will be disrupted in many ways. As pointed out at WebMD: “Whether your chronic pain develops after an injury or illness or on its own, the result is often the same: a cycle of sleeplessness, inactivity, irritability, depression, and more pain.”

This type of disruption in your life can be stressful at best, which will actually cause tension and bring on more pain and thus you’re stuck in an endless cycle. It’s no wonder that so many turn to the stronger opioid medications to get relief.

The Concern About Opioids

For years, medical professionals have been using opioids as a form of treatment for those suffering from chronic pain. While the treatment may have been effective, in many cases, patients were found to experience many adverse effects from the drugs. In addition to the risk of developing a dependency on the drug there were many other problems that could result from the regular use of opioids to treat chronic pain.

The most common side effects that result from using opioids are constipation and gastrointestinal motility. However, the list of issues does not stop there. Many patients have also experienced cognitive impairment when the drug is used in conjunction with other medications, and the severity of the symptoms can grow from there.

Whether the use of opioids is for short-term or long-term treatment, the adverse side effects should be a matter of concern for a number of reasons. According to medical experts at Medscape: “As many as 80% of patients experience at least one adverse event, the most common are gastrointestinal and CNS side effects. Across studies, a high percentage of somnolence (14-29%), problems with sleep (25%), memory deficits (24%), loss of appetite (23%), nausea (17-33%), concentration deficits (19%), sexual dysfunction (18%), dizziness (12-22%), vomiting (11-15%), pruritus/dry skin (10%), and urinary retention.”

Many who have taken opioids over an extended period of time have been known to develop a tolerance to some of these side effects. There are some that will not improve over time and alternative measures will be necessary to deal with the complications they may cause.

Probably the most devastating adverse effect of regular use of opioids is the higher death rate from unintentional overdoses. When accustomed to pain, some may develop a tolerance that may require more and more medication over time. This habit can make it extremely easy to accidentally overdose in an effort to ease the pain. The fact is that drug overdoses in the USA saw an increase of 124% between the years of 1999 and 2007. Researchers claim that opioids were a major factor in that upward trend.

Alternative Treatments for Chronic Pain

With so many adverse side effects that come as a result of these pain medications, more and more people are turning to alternative treatments instead of taking the risks. There have been many positive results that have resulted from the use of some of these alternative pain treatments. According to Medical expert, Dr. Oz: “I’m happy to report that pain management is one area in which drug-free treatments are showing promising results. In fact, a recent survey found that 75% of integrative-medicine centers across the country were successful at relieving chronic pain with therapies that don’t come in the form of a pill.”

These alternative treatments could include anything from physical therapy to hypnosis.

The TENS Unit

One of those alternative forms of treatment is the transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation device. The device controls pain by blocking the nervous systems pathway and preventing it from sending pain signals to the brain. By flooding the nervous system with a low-level stimulation it can effectively prevent the pain signals from actually getting the message through and therefore stopping the pain from actually occurring.

While the unit is not the perfect solution for everyone, those who have found success with the TENS device report that results are rapid once you find the best level of stimulation to deal with your pain. Patients also tend to prefer the device’s portability; it is small enough to fit in a handbag or pocket so that the patient can make use of it whenever he or she needs to find relief from their pain.

By taking advantage of the non-invasive way to deal with pain, many pain sufferers can not only get some pain relief, they can also avoid all of those seriously devastating side effects that opioids can cause.