Chronic pain management and opiates, unfortunately, go hand in hand in today’s society. However, the overprescription of opioids has led to hundreds of thousands of overdoses. As a result, doctors and patients alike are looking for natural pain relief alternatives to opiates that don’t carry addictive properties and can still provide chronic pain management. Everything from essential oils to herbs and barks can help treat various ailments.
According to the most recent statistics, around 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. To help you understand, chronic pain refers to a type of pain that’s persistent and can last weeks to years. To qualify as chronic pain, someone must struggle with the same symptoms for at least six months.
Table of Contents
The Problem with Opiates
While opiates are effective in treating short-term pain, like the pain that comes from recovering from surgery, they can lead to addiction in the long-run. Over 200 million prescriptions are written each year for opioids. These prescriptions had led to a drastic increase in overdose deaths. In fact, between 1999 and today, nearly half a million Americans died as a result of opiate overdoses.
Opiates, while effective at treating chronic pain, are also highly addictive and have the potential for misuse. Even if someone doesn’t end up addicted to opioids, they often move to easier to afford and attain drugs such as heroin to maintain their addiction.
Popular Natural Pain Relief Alternatives
Luckily, there are various natural pain relief alternatives to opioids that have promising results when it comes to managing chronic pain. Most chronic pain ailments are due to inflammation and countless natural herbs and remedies that can bring the inflammation down and help relieve the pain.
For centuries, people turned to willow bark to bring down inflammation. The bark contains a chemical called salicin, which is similar to the main ingredient in aspirin. Nowadays, you can find willow bark at most pharmacies to help relieve headaches, low back pain, and other conditions.
Of course, as many natural remedies, it also comes with some side effects. Stomach upset, prolonging bleeding time, and slowing down kidneys are some of the most common side effects.
Tumeric has risen to popularity in recent years as a potent anti-inflammatory herb. It’s high in curcumin, which helps protect the body from free radicals that damage body tissue and cells. People use turmeric to ease inflammation that occurs with cancer, ulcers, psoriasis, and stomach upset.
Although cloves are a kitchen staple for spicing up dishes, it can also work as a medicine. Cloves are famous for their nausea calming effects. One study suggests that cloves can help treat fungal infections.
The active ingredient in cloves is eugenol, often used in over-the-counter pain relief rubs. Using topical cloves remedies can help ease toothache pain, headaches, and rheumatoid arthritis pain inflammation.
While not a herb, acupuncture is an ancient natural pain reliever that focuses on balancing the body’s natural energy pathways. Acupuncturists use tiny, thin needles that go into the skin in points related to pain.
One study found that acupuncture helped relieve pain associated with migraines, chronic pain in various locations, and osteoarthritis.
Dangerous Natural Pain Relief Alternatives
As always, natural remedies don’t mean that they’re still safe. Specific natural remedies help with particular conditions. It’s essential to get medical advice before incorporating any new herbal remedy into your diet, especially if you take any pain medications as they can have interactions. Besides, some natural remedies and alternatives to opiates can still be dangerous and carry a potential for addiction.
Kratom is a plant that grows primarily in Southeast Asia. For decades, kratom has been a herbal medicine in countries like Malaysia and Thailand. However, it’s becoming more popular in the US with people using it as a recreational drug to experience a “legal high.”
While kratom is legal in many countries, it doesn’t mean it’s safer than illicit drugs. According to the DEA, kratom induces a euphoric high that can last between two to five hours. The leaves and stems are dried, and people chew them or brew them into tea to get their high. At low doses, it produces an opioid-like effect similar to morphine or oxycodone.
Research about kratom dependency on humans is unknown, but animal studies show that rodents develop a physical dependence after only five days. In humans, long-term kratom users are likely to develop a tolerance and start using more significant doses to achieve the same effects, eventually developing an addiction.
Marijuana comes from the dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. It has mind-altering compounds known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which give people the “high” most users report. While rare, marijuana use disorder, chronic users are at risk of developing an addiction. The latest data suggest that at least 30% of marijuana users have some degree of dependence.
Initially, people thought that marijuana was not a gateway drug. However, some research by the National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related Disorders showed that marijuana users are more likely than non-marijuana users to develop an alcohol use disorder within three years.
Also, studies believe that marijuana use among adolescents reduces the volume of specific brain regions responsible for functions like memory, learning, and impulse control. However, these effects depend on how long and how often people use marijuana.
Focusing on Wellbeing
Whether you think opiate painkillers are necessary or not, the truth is that science proves there are many alternatives. Sometimes a mere combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be as effective a strong opioid medication.
Those struggling with chronic pain can also find relief through physical therapy, exercise, alternative medicine, yoga, massage therapy, and other treatments that are effective at managing pain. It’s possible to find chronic pain management that doesn’t involve opioid drugs.
At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we combine evidence-based addiction treatment and therapies with comprehensive wellness treatments that focus on your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
If you or someone you know is struggling with opiate dependence, please know there’s help available. When you choose a comprehensive drug addiction treatment center, you can manage your dependency and find chronic pain management to live a life free of addiction.