The Southeastern Spine Institute

Opioid drugs are powerful medications that doctors have been prescribing for the relief of intense physical pain for decades. But the U.S. saw a dramatic rise in the use of these medications since the 1990s. Since then, it’s become more and more apparent that opioid use can progress way too easily into addiction — and in far too many cases, it can lead to death.

As a result, opioid abuse has become a national crisis. Too many Americans die every day from opioid overdose. In addition to causing fatalities, opioid abuse has had consequences in lost productivity, high health care costs, increased crime rates and the need for addiction treatment.

Side Effects of Opioid Abuse

Opioids have become so addictive in part because of their ability to hide pain behind a wall of euphoria. The “high” and the drug’s powerful, negative effect on the body during withdrawal has produced a double-whammy that encourages addiction. The side effects of abuse, however, become more noticeable as the addiction deepens.

After the drug wears off, the body craves more. An addict may appear sweaty, discontented and single-minded. When on the drug, a person shows signs of the narcotic addiction:

  • Loss of concentration
  • Indifference to relationships and responsibility
  • Slurred speech and inability to look eye-to-eye
  • Pain sensitivity
  • Persistent constipation
  • Contracted pupils
  • Shallow breathing pattern
  • Diminished libido
  • Inability to drive

These effects make fighting the opioid crisis an easy decision. Addicts can’t function in normal society. They aren’t responsible — to others or to themselves. The best way to resolve the crisis is preventing more people from becoming addicts.

A Conservative Approach to Opioid Use

For fighting the opioid crisis, the medical staff of specialists at SSI takes a conservative approach to the use of these drugs, just as they take a conservative approach to surgery. In other words, it’s never the first option. If you’re experiencing acute pain, your spine physician prescribes the smallest potency and the minimum number of painkillers to get you through the worst of the pain.

Whenever possible, your doctor recommends the use of opioids only on a short-term basis. Once you’re over the worst period, you can move on to other pain-relief alternatives, such as physical therapy or epidural steroid injections.

Alternate Methods of Pain Relief

Relief from pain doesn’t have to come from opioids. You can also get relief by focusing on exercise and weight loss. There are many other treatment methods that offer relief without the potential for addiction, such as:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications
  • Spinal cord stimulation
  • Trigger point injections
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Nerve blocks

None of these alternative treatments involve surgery. Fighting the opioid crisis doesn’t mean you have to resort to invasive procedures.

Fighting the Opioid Crisis

SSI physicians recognize that no one-size-fits-all answer exists when it comes to pain management and pain relief. You receive a thorough assessment of your individual situation, the cause of your pain and the different methods that may help. When you come in with short-term pain from an accident, you shouldn’t leave with a long-term problem with addiction.

Medical professionals at SSI recognize that every patient’s experience with pain is different. While they don’t rule out the possibility that opioids may be needed to deal with chronic pain, those drugs are not the first choice for relief of pain.