An opioid crisis that now claims more than 140 American lives every day is tragic enough by itself. Making it more tragic is the fact that overdoses linked to prescription opioids account for most of the increase in opioid-related deaths over the last 15 years. This suggests that some of those deaths could have been avoided if opioids had never been prescribed.
Plenty of blog posts and articles looking at the opioid crisis have traced its origins back to the over prescribing of opioids following surgeries. For the record, a long-term study published by the JAMA Surgery journal in mid-September shows that patients who begin using prescription opioids following surgery are rarely those who die from overdose. That being the case, there is only one other place to look: chronic pain patients.
The study in question looked at more than 117,000 patients who had been taking opioid medications for at least six months. They found that only 0.7% had received their first opioid prescription as a result of an inpatient procedure (surgery). The study went on to demonstrate that the doctors writing the vast majority of opioid prescriptions are not surgeons or other specialists who use them for short-term treatments. Rather, it is primary care physicians dispensing opioids to treat chronic pain.
A Solution That’s Too Easy
Primary care physicians are front-line doctors that see patients suffering from all sorts of injuries, diseases, and maladies. They are expected to be the medical profession’s ‘Jack of all trades’ to some extent. Furthermore, the high-pressure environment doctors face every day leads many of them to look for easy ways to get patients in and out as quickly as possible. Opioid prescriptions for chronic pain do just that.
This is not a criticism of primary care doctors in any way. Rather, it is reflection of a healthcare system that has, for too long, relied on prescription medications to make people feel better rather than trying to discover and treat root causes. If someone is complaining of chronic back or knee pain, our system would rather a doctor spend 30 seconds writing prescription than take the time to figure out what’s going on and actually correct it.
We need another way of doing things if we are to quell the opioid crisis. Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI), a Utah company that trains doctors to administer PRP and stem cell therapies, says that better way is regenerative medicine. They have already helped more than 200 doctors and clinics introduce regenerative medicine to their patients.
Treating Chronic Pain at the Source
The pain-relieving benefits of opioid medications cannot be denied. Unfortunately, all those medications do is prevent the brain from recognizing and interpreting pain signals. Opioids block pain and nothing else. Regenerative medicine is substantially different in that it treats chronic pain at the source.
A person with osteoarthritis may experience chronic pain in the knees for years. That pain is the direct result of lost tissue that would otherwise prevent the bones of the joint from making contact. Where an opioid medication may be able to mask the resulting pain, the goal of regenerative medicine is to encourage the patient’s body to replace the lost tissue so that the bones no longer make contact.
Advanced Regenerative Medicine Institute says doctors can use PRP, stem cell therapy, or a combination of both to treat osteoarthritis. Hundreds of doctors around the country are already doing it.
Regenerative medicine is not the only solution to the opioid crisis, but it is a better way to manage chronic pain and keep people off drugs that could eventually kill them.