Working towards recovery after an opioid addiction is no easy feat. With over 289 million prescriptions written a year, and the U.S. is responsible for 80 percent of all opiate consumption, it’s no wonder there is an opiate crisis.
The opiate epidemic is leading people into intense and fatal addictions. After only four weeks of using opioids, a person can develop an addiction to painkillers. Repeated use leads to respiratory issues, depression, and changes to the immune system. But it’s imperative to note that opioids serve a purpose of pain relief and people who are seeking recovery are still in desperate need of pain relief without suffering the consequences of highly addictive drugs.
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Shital Parikh Mars, the CEO of Progressive Care, a personalized service and technology company, explains that the alternatives to recovering from opioid addiction depend on “what kind of pain the patient is experiencing.” She says, “You want to identify the source of your localized pain and treat it right in that area.”
Mars explains that the methods of alternatives can be taken in combination. She continues, “There are a lot of things that I would want to stress at this point is that these alternatives can be more effective for that pain. In terms of opioids, we shouldn't be looking at strength, we should be looking at effectiveness. Which is why a topical compound can be much better for a shoulder injury for example; tramadol, which is commonly prescribed for pain or even Percocet or Vicodin. And those come with all the side effects that we know of as well as risk for dependency.”
Safe and natural ways to ease pain include acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage. These three methods are proven to release dopamine endorphins to improve bodily functions. Acupuncture is also known to relieve the severity of tension headaches and migraines according to the National Institute of Health.
Mindfulness and Meditation
By focusing inwards, meditation can create a healthy alternative to painkillers. A study on JAMA concluded that people with chronic back pain saw improvement after 26 weeks of practicing meditation. According to Reuters, 17 percent of people in traditional recovery programs relapse after a year compared to the 9 percent who practice mindfulness.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
With chronic pain, comes emotional pain as well. Extreme pain can take a toll on someone’s emotional well being. CBT offers treatment with depressive thoughts and allows patients to focus their negative feelings elsewhere.
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“We're willing to take Percocet, but we're not willing to look at medical marijuana,” says Mars. “That's the part that the public needs to start being educated on, that every pain is different. Every person feels pain differently and the opioids isn't the only answer for that. We need to be thinking about a nuance approach to pain and if a doctor prescribes you a pain cream from a reputable pharmacy that that might work better for that pain and give someone a better quality of life than an opioid ever could, we must be open to new solutions.”
Even alternative recovery drugs, like suboxone, can be addictive and can cause withdrawal symptoms. It’s essential to seek help, but research the methods in which you or a loved one are seeking. Twelve-step meetings, asking for help, being honest with yourself, and taking recovery one day at a time are all imperative in seeking guidance in recovering from opioid addiction.