By Belinda Kirkland, DPT CHT ATC

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a group of drugs naturally made from the opium plant. They are prescription drugs used to help with acute pain relief. They can also illegally be used to make the drug heroin. The majority of prescribed opioids are used to close pain signals between the body and the brain. Opioids tend to make some people feel at ease, happy, or high, and can be dangerously addictive.  Many people believe that we continue to be in an opioid epidemic across the world.

opioid epidemic opioids JOI REHAB

Opioids in America

What Are the Most Common Opioids

The most common prescription opioids are Oxycodone or OxyContin and Hydrocodone or Vicodin. Fentanyl is another common drug which in the opioid group.  However, Fentanyl is way more powerful than even morphine. Another common opioid is heroin, however, this is an illegal drug.  Opioids are used to control both acute and chronic pain for various medical conditions.  With regular use of the drug, you body becomes tolerant and dependent on the drug to control your pain.  The continued use of opioids for extended periods of time can lead to addiction se of opioids for a long period of can lead to addiction. Additionally, the use of opioids can restrict the ability to breathe with certain individuals and at higher doses and when mixing with other medications or drugs.  This can also be fatal in some circumstances.   Here is a list of some of the common opioids:

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin)
  • Acetaminophen with codeine phosphate/Acetaminophen-Codeine Methadone
  • Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen
  • Hydrocodone-Ibuprofen
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine Poly
  • Acetaminophen with codeine phosphate/Acetaminophen-Codeine Methadone
  • Methadone Hydrochloride
  • Hydrocodone Bitartrate
  • Hydrocodone-Homatropine

Opioid Drug Addiction

Drug addictions to opioids are more common and are extremely dangerous and concerning.  Opioids are highly addictive because they affect powerful reward centers in the brain.  This is related to how they release endorphins or natural hormones that make you feel good.  This can be addiction to people who have pain because they want to continue to feel good.

However, your body quickly adapts to the level of the opioid and then decrease the production of the endorphin.  This means that the person taking the opioid needs a high dose.  This is the cycle of addiction with opioids.

You should certainly talk to your physician about taking opioids.  You should also consult with them for advice if you develop a tolerance to the drug that you are taking.  If you have been taking an opioid for an extended period of time, you should seek out medical advice on the proper way to wean off of the opioid.  Quitting cold turkey can result in harsh side effects


Doctor Helping Patient Overcome Addiction.

Risk Factors to Opioid Addiction

Research has documented that there are risk factors associated with Opioid addiction.  These risks factors are both physical, environmental and psychological in nature.

  • Economic Factors
  • Unemployment
  • Family history of substance abuse or alcoholism
  • Social status or young adults
  • A history of Criminal Citations
  • Depression and the Inability to Handle Stress
  • Injury/Surgery/Disability
  • Females have a biological tendency to become dependent to prescription pain medications faster than males.

Research indicates that opioids can become addictive after just 3 days of use.  This is dependent on several factors which you should discuss with your physician.  Your physician will discuss with you alternatives for the treatment of your pain.

How Do We Reduce The Exposure to Opioids Abuse? 

There are a variety of ways to help reduce exposure to opioids and prevent opioid use disorder, such as:
  • Prescription drug monitoring programs.
  • The State of Florida prescription drug regulations and laws
  • Formulary management strategies in insurance programs.  These include prior authorization, quantity limits, and drug utilization review.

Alternative Pain Treatments

There are alternatives to opioids when you are in pain.  The most common alternative is a non-opioid medication.  This can be over the counter medications like aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen.  Other alternative treatments for pain are:

  • Dry Needling
  • Physical Therapy and Modalities such as laser and electrical stimulation
  • Massage and Cupping
  • Injections and Surgery
  • Coping Therapy and Biofeedback
  • Creams such as Voltaren or Analgesics

Pain Management Techniques that Utilize Technology

Technology continues to advance in the area of pain management.  It seems like each and every day we discover a new way to treat both acute and chronic pain.

  • Nerve blocks
  • Spinal cord stimulation and implants
  • Pain Pumps
  • The Dolphin Neurostim is the world’s first device designed to reduce sympathetic nervous system activity. This device reduces nervous system stress to relax muscles and relieve pain.

Natural Remedies to Pain

  • Chiropractic Care. Chiropractic physicians treat and rehabilitate pain,
    diseases and conditions using manual, mechanical, electrical, natural
    methods, physical therapy, nutrition and acupuncture. Chiropractors
    practice a hands-on, prescription drug-free approach to health care that
    includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment
  • Cold and Heat. Cold can be useful soon after an injury to relieve pain, decrease inflammation and muscle spasms, and help speed recovery. Heat raises your pain threshold and relaxes muscles.
  • Yoga and Tai Chi. These mind-body and exercise practices incorporate
    breath control, meditation, and movements to stretch and strengthen muscles. They may help with chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, low back pain, arthritis, or headaches.
yoga pose to stretch shoulder

yoga shoulder stretch

  • Exercise and Weight Loss. Staying physically active, despite some pain, can play a helpful role for people with some of the more common pain conditions.. Many painful health conditions are worsened by excess weight. It makes sense, then that losing weight can help to relieve some kinds of pain.

Written By: Belinda Kirkland, DPT CHT ATC

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