Pain pills have become a pariah in our society. It’s estimated that 100 million people in the United States suffer with chronic pain. Every year, enough prescriptions for pain pills are written in the United States to keep every man, woman and child medicated for over a month. Does this seem like too much? Most definitely!
The sad truth is that many suffering with pain are not treated effectively – or they are actually abused.
Here’s an actual post from Cindi on Facebook…
I see a quack here in Hendersonville for the past year for my pain management. Someone told me that MAHEC is very professional so I schedule an appointment, go this morning, I’m sitting in the room waiting for NP to come in, she does…. first words out of her mouth was “first thing I’m gonna do is“ work on weaning off The OxyContin” lol!!!!
I just had and increase from the quack I am seeing now!
Then she starts carrying on and on about how there’s no documented proof of opioids being effective for chronic pain (she sounded like a robot)!
I finally interrupted her and announced that I am not an addict seeking a fix! I’m a chronic pain patient seeking management if my pain!
I then said “We will not be able to work together, I find this rude and inconsiderate! I got up, left…. I was steaming mad!! To try and belittle a patient?
So I pull over, call the administration and reported what happened! Unbelievable….
I just hope that they don’t try and get records from my current doctor!
How the heck did any of this happen? I am not an addict yet patients are being treated like they are!”
Is Cindi’s experience typical? For an increasing number of chronic pain patients, it is. So sad…
Those that take opioids daily are not only subjected to this unfair scrutiny, they must deal with brain fog, depression, anxiety and a reduced quality of life.
But all is not hopeless. Let’s take a look at the pain pill facts and what can be done to ease the burden…
HOW THE NIGHTMARE GOT STARTED
In the 1980’s, chronic pain was treated differently than it is now. Back then, when a patient went to the doctor with a chronic pain complaint, the goal was to ease the pain – not eliminate it completely.
But Big Pharma and the American Medical Association (AMA) got involved. Big Pharma started sending their sales reps to doctor’s offices in the last few years… the goal was to convince doctors that their painkillers were not addictive. This would make the doctor more willing to write these prescriptions. Of course, we now know that is a total lie.
The AMA issued new guidelines to doctors for the management of chronic pain. Every patient would be asked to rate their pain level on a 1 – 10 scale. The goal was to get everyone’s pain level as low as possible and keep it there 24/7. Doctor’s started writing prescriptions for constant use of the pain pills – sometimes for months at a time. Before long, patients were picking up dozens or even hundreds of pain pills with each prescription. Many of these people became quickly addicted.
A dramatic turn in attitude happened several years ago. Now, the story that Cyndi told is very common. And it’s a very dire situation for those in pain and addicted. What is someone to do if their doctor cuts them off cold turkey? As we’ll discuss below, stopping opioids like this is ill-advised and causes many problems.
OPIOIDS ARE KILLING MORE PEOPLE THAN THE VIETNAM WAR
Almost 250,000 people have died in the years 2000 – 2019 from overdosing on opioid drugs. New statistics from the CDC show the crisis is getting worse. In 2017 alone there were a staggering 70,237 drug overdose deaths in America – which is an almost 10% increase from 2016 statistics. Even more alarming, the death rate from synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl increased 45 percent from 2016 – 2017. Adding up the deaths from opioids and synthetic painkillers during the last 20 years, about 230,000 have succumbed to this pharmaceutically-induced epidemic – about 4 times the U.S. casualty rate from the entire Vietnam War conflict (58,220 deaths).
Sadly, in the U.S., it has been estimated that 54 million people over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons sometime in their lives. Painkillers were on the top of the list at 3.3 million users, with tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives following close behind.
HOW TO TAKE PAINKILLERS SAFELY
Vicodin and Lortab are two brand names of one of the most popular drugs in the entire world. Generically, it is called “hydrocodone with apap” where “apap” stands for acetaminophen (Tylenol). Almost everyone gets the generic “hydrocodone/apap” as opposed to the brand name because it is so much cheaper.
The opioids are man-made drugs intended to look a lot like the naturally-produced opiates made in the human body. The opioid binds to the receptor on the cell’s membrane and unlocks a variety of feel-good, “numbing” compounds which relax the body, increase pleasure feelings and (of course) suppress pain signals. If the reader requires this type of medication for pain management, there are some things to know:
1. Never stop suddenly
If a person has been taking this type of medication for more than 2 weeks, do not stop suddenly. The patient has to be slowly weaned off of the drug. The body has already grown tolerant to the medication. Stopping suddenly can produce dangerous withdrawal effects. Someone that has taken painkillers for years may need months to wean themselves off the drugs. It’s a very slow process since the receptors for the opioids are downregulated. That means that the body slows the production of brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters such as serotonin, acetylcholine, glutamate, GABA and dopamine.
2. Deal with the side-effects by offsetting them
Hydrocodone/apap (Vicodin) has a number one side effect of constipation. The solution is to use a stool softener like docusate. Another solution is to take up to 10 grams of Vitamin C daily in divided doses. This is usually done with a powder that is added to water. The Vitamin C keeps the colon from absorbing water to concentrate the stool. The result is more watery stools. If diarrhea occurs, it means the person is taking too much Vitamin C and should cut back. The diarrhea will quickly disappear.
In some people, the most prominent side-effect is extreme sedation. This happens mostly when opioids are first taken. Over time, the tranquilizing effect wears off – then the GI problems begin. These problems include resistant constipation, nausea or bloating – issues that are challenging to deal with.
Hydration is very important as is eating a diet rich in fiber – like prunes and even oatmeal. If this doesn’t help, an over-the-counter (OTC) laxative like Miralax (polyethylene glycol 3350) or a fiber supplement like Metamucil may help. Ex-lax contains chemicals called sennosides which appears to be more effective than bisacodyl (Dulcolax) for opioid induced constipation.
People that have been taking Oxycodone/apap (Percocet) or Oxycontin for a long time may develop a condition known as “Narcotic Bowel Syndrome” (NBS) which is much worse than constipation.
It involves something called gastrointestinal hypersensitivity. It’s terribly under-recognized! The typical scenario is: a myriad of tests are done and come back negative or unremarkable. The sufferer has recurrent abdominal issues – with no relief from any medication, diet or surgery. Probiotics are often recommended since they don’t know what else to do. Only stopping the opioids will solve that problem.
There is a progressive increase in abdominal pain that continues with people despite higher dosing of pain meds – even meds intended to relieve the abdominal pain. It’s never ending and leads to the road of getting CT scans, abdominal x-rays, MRI’s, MRCP’s, Ultrasounds, endoscopes down the throat, colonoscopies up from the bottom… and on and on it goes! These will all probably be unremarkable or maybe there will be signs suggesting a GI obstruction. If the patient has been on painkillers for more than a year, NBS is more likely to happen.
NBS typically causes a worsening of abdominal pain despite the increasing doses of narcotics prescribed in an effort to relieve the pain. Vague and constantly changing abdominal aches and pains often happen. NBS can and does occur in people with no history of stomach or intestinal problems.
3. Drug Nutrient Depletion… also known as “drug mugging”
Constant use of hydrocodone causes drug mugging of dopamine… meaning that it will cause the body to release a little of this pleasurable neurotransmitter with every pill taken. The result is that dopamine is used much faster than normal. That’s just one of its mechanisms of action. Eventually the body adjusts to this effect – then higher doses are needed because new receptors keep popping up and they’re waiting for the extra dopamine the body started making. Over time, the dopamine stores run out because only so much can be made.
Receptor function begins to change. Then epigenetics takes over and changes the genes in the body’s DNA. So, if the pain pills are stopped too suddenly, then the dopamine “squirt” is now gone. A deep, dark, ugly depression can result.
Withdrawal symptoms begin….
Early symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Muscle aches
- Increased tearing
- Runny nose
Late symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Abdominal cramping
- Dilated pupils
These symptoms are very uncomfortable but are not life threatening. Be aware that a dopamine-lifting anti-depressant or herbal remedy may be needed for a while until the body can crank out enough dopamine.
Hydrocodone is also a drug mugger of folate (often mistakenly referred to as folic acid). Folate is actually vitamin B9. When the B9 is depleted, levels of homocysteine increase and cause massive inflammation. In plain English, this means that long-term use of hydrocodone and other pain pills causes the body to feel more pain and depression!
The APAP (Tylenol or acetaminophen) mugs glutathione from the body, which is the master detoxifier. This can damage the liver and detoxification pathways that normal clear damaging free radicals.
One way to prevent damage from high doses of acetaminophen (over 1,000 mg per day) is to take a mineral called selenium. Also, selenium is helpful in maintaining normal cell reproduction and normal cell death… sometimes called apoptosis.
4. Never Drink Alcohol or Take Sleeping Pills
Pain pills have many interactions with other chemicals often resulting in significant depression of the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is made up of the brain and spinal cord. When the CNS is suppressed everything slows down… including digestion, thinking time, reaction time, reflexes, breathing and more. Indeed, many deaths from opioid overdoses happen because the poor victim stops breathing. A horrible, deep sedation can happen. Think back to a time when alcohol was used as a sleep aid… or when a pain pill was popped after dental work or childbirth. The end result is being really sleepy or even loopy.
Some users mix benzodiazepines like Ativan, Xanax or Klonopin with the pain pills. This is a really bad combination that physicians prescribed for decades. After all that time, a warning was finally issued to stop the practice. The combination of these drugs produces a synergistic effect. In other words, 1 + 1 = 4. A sleepy, messed-up, zombie-like sensation often occurs along with very slowed breathing and can be fatal.
The reason over 30,000 people in the United States die every year is due in part to the combination of opioid drugs with sleeping pills, tranquilizers or booze. This also produces a synergistic effect with slowed respiration or even stopped respiration. This leads to unintended deaths. It’s sad how many people have unknowingly combined opioids and alcohol and then passed on. Sleeping pills cause the same problem – even over-the-counter sleep aids.
The “lucky” ones survive but may wind up with brain damage or lie in a vegetative state for months or years.
5. Don’t Combine Pain Pills With Herbal Sedatives
Some people assume that herbs or botanical compounds are safe with no possible side effects, but that’s simply not true. Some herbs have potent medicinal actions and many depress the central nervous system.
Here is a partial list of sedative herbs that should never be combined with an opioid:
PS: There are many natural alternatives for controlling pain that allow the patient to cut back or even totally eliminate the need for pain pills. Even better, addiction to opioids can also be treated naturally to ease the withdrawal symptoms. I should know… I’ve been through this myself. To get more information, please sign up for a free consultation at www.stopneckpainnaturally.com.
Also, please take a moment to like the Stop Neck Pain Naturally page on Facebook and join the movement toward natural and healthy living.