One of the most talked-about issues the world is facing today is that of the opioid epidemic. The increased use of opioid prescriptions began in the 1990s, and has since led to countless instances of addiction and death.
Oddly enough opioids include heroin, a drug illegal in the United States – but it also includes OxyContin, Vicodin, morphine, and codeine, all medications available by prescription to treat pain.
Almost 30% of patients prescribed opioids misuse them and end up self-medicating and addicted.
So how do we fix this?
Part of the blame has recently been put on executives of opioid manufacturing companies, who have been found guilty of racketeering. Doctors have also been accused of being overly-ready to prescribe the medication when it isn’t always necessary.
But people have different pain thresholds, and some patients may actually need pain relief.
Luckily there are some alternatives out there and many of them are natural.
Capsaicin is an extract derived from chili peppers, and although the packaging might make it appear incredibly manufactured, this pain relief option is actually all-natural.
Researchers aren’t sure how exactly it works, but the thought is that when applied topically, the burning sensation that first happens is actually the capsaicin stimulating the release of a chemical that transmits pain signals. Within a few minutes that chemical is depleted, and your body will no longer be notified that pain is coming from whatever area the cream was applied.
Available over the counter and in many different forms (creams, sprays, pills, and patches), the product and concentration that you choose will have differing effects on the kind of pain that you want to treat. It’s still best to stop in and talk to a doctor or pharmacist about what you’ll be using capsaicin for, so that they can point you in the right direction.
This one might seem like a bit of a hippy idea, but lavender has actually been proven to relieve stress and cut down on cut down on pain in small doses.
Lavender is now widely available as an essential oil, additive to bath and beauty products, and in teas and food products. Researchers have found evidence that shows the herb can help treat sleep disorders, headaches, inflammatory issues, and many more problems. It’s most commonly used in oil form as a stress reliever.
Any essential oil should be diluted before use as direct contact can cause skin irritation. But studies have shown that in children post-surgery, inhaling lavender cut down on their need for other pain relief later. While this might not seem like a big deal, pain killers such as acetaminophen can have nasty side effects. Nausea, rashes, and dizziness are just a few – and frustrating enough that you’ll want to avoid them.
If you’re considering using lavender for pain relief, look into the oils as well as bath products. Inhaling the scent seems to be enough to cut down on pain. Lavender is available as a spray, an oil for inhalation and diffusion, and even in bath salts and bubbles.
It also has the added benefit of stress relief – and chances are, if you’re in pain, you could use that as well!
Different cultures have been using kratom for pain relief for centuries, so although research is just getting jump started on this evergreen plant product, it has the backing of a history with quite a few nations. Using kratom for pain relief is becoming much more mainstream and there are more websites talking about it online.
In the early 1800s kratom was already being used as an opioid substitute as its side effects aren’t nearly as bad as the drug. Kratom works by attaching to proteins called opioid receptors and inhibiting their pain perception.
It also has the added benefit of providing long-term energy (having been used by laborers for hundreds of years), soothing stress, promoting weight loss, and treating other health problems such as coughs and intestinal infections.
Although many people in the Western hemisphere are still skeptical of acupuncture, it’s a practice that has been around since the late AD period, and for good reason.
Trained professionals insert needles at different points of the body, and those points correspond to other areas that are affected by pain or illness.
Commonly treated problems include headaches, nerve disorders, musculoskeletal pain (such as back and neck pain), nausea, and insomnia. When it comes to pain relief, there are two explanations coming from two different cultures on how it works. The first is that stimulating certain parts of the body releases a flow of energy that cleanses your “meridians.” The second is that stimulating nerves sends messages to the brain, telling it to release its own pain relief chemicals.
However it works, thousands of people swear by it, usually after pursuing many other options for pain relief. With few side effects acupuncture is becoming a popular alternative to the opioid medications.
If we’re going to solve the problem of opioid addiction, we need to start looking at alternative ways to treat pain. Even pain relief medication in smaller doses can have negative effects on the body and keep patients feeling uncomfortable and unwell.
Luckily there are already many other options out there, some of which we’ve explored here. If you’re in need of pain relief in the future, we hope you’ll keep some of our suggestions in mind!