Natural Pain Relief Without Opiate Drugs
Overcoming Opiate Addiction with Effective Options For Pain Relief
Dr. Bell had an office near mine, and always had plenty of patients. People came to see him from all over the Western United States because he was the best pain doctor around. One day, I got a frantic call from the administrator of a nursing home, “We need you now to take all the patients of Dr. Bell. He was just brought into custody by the DEA and his patients don’t have a doctor!” I agreed to take over, and soon found out the story. Dr. Bell was prescribing large doses of multiple opiate medications.
Opiates are drugs that bind to the same receptor as opium, a chemical derived from the seeds of a poppy long known for its pain-numbing properties. More than relieving the physical pain, which it does, it also relieves the emotional pain.
Heroin is derived from opium. It was named heroin because it was supposed to be the “hero” to replace morphine as a non-addictive substitute. Within twenty years, however, there were even more people addicted to heroin than morphine. By 1920 heroin addicts numbered almost 200,000 in the U.S. alone, causing Congress to make it illegal, and federally regulating all opiates. Doctors are not allowed to prescribe heroin at all; it can only be used for research purposes.
Dr. Bell was prescribing the maximum dose of different kinds of opiates. Opiate drugs are those that are derived, either naturally or synthetically, from the opium plant. They differ in strength and length of time they work. The synthetic forms are also very similar to the natural opiates (endorphins, which I will discuss later) made by our own body and brain.
The Difference Between Opiates and Opioids
Opiates are processed from naturally occurring alkaloids in the opium poppy. This includes a wide range of drugs, all of which are known for their pain relief and euphoria-producing capabilities.
Types of Opiates that Come Directly from the Opium Poppy Include:
Opioids, on the other hand, are synthetic, created in a laboratory from naturally occurring alkaloids in the opium poppy. Although man-made, opioids act like opiates when taken for pain due to their molecular similarities.
Types of Synthetic Opioids Include:
- Fentanyl (The strongest of them all)
Semi-synthetic opioids are made from natural opiates:
- Oxycodone (Percocet)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco)
(For the sake of this article, I will use the term “opiates” for all forms of opium-related drugs.)
Dr. Bell was prescribing hydrocodone, oxycodone, and hydromorphone in large doses to the same people. Sometimes he would also give morphine. Various people were filling the prescriptions and selling the drugs on the black market. These medications aren’t safe; there were many ER visits, and several deaths from overdose attributed to these prescriptions.
Americans consume 80% of opiate drugs produced in the world, and represent only about 5% of the population.
If we add in Europe and Canada, we take in 95% of all opiate medications. The rest of the world uses them for temporary pain from an operation, injuries, or cancer. But in the U.S., anyone can get opiates for almost any reason.
In the United States, many people abuse opiate medications. Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco) was the most prescribed drug in the United States until the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) changed the requirements. They now require that the patient see the doctor for each prescription, they can receive a maximum of one month’s supply, and cannot have refills. Because of this, the number of prescriptions has dropped dramatically, making opiate pain relief medications harder to obtain.
Opium, and both the natural and synthetic drugs derived from it, can cause a number of side effects when the drug is abused. These side effects can range from annoying to severe, but the most common of them can all be problematic in their own way, including: