Can researching nature help us find a less addicting remedy for pain?
From the rainforests to the oceans, nature is responsible for the majority of the pharmaceutical drugs ever invented. Compounds created from plants, or hoping to mimic functions of other living species, have been researched for centuries in hopes of breakthroughs in pain management. Recently, a team from University of Utah aims to expand upon its previous research into pain management alternatives by utilizing a new grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. The grant of 10 million dollars was given, in part, due to the team’s discoveries made over 15 years ago and the imminent need for opioid alternatives.
Marine Snails Key to Opioid Alternatives?
Investigating the venom of cone snails “conus regius”, and their venom’s effect on pain receptors and the nervous system, led to the FDA approval of the drug Prialt in 2004. Prialt is used for severe pain and nervous system disorders, but has a difficult application process. For patients to receive the drug, a doctor must inject it into the spinal cord.
But with this new 10 million dollar grant, split over four years’ time, the team at the university hopes to find opioid alternatives to current medications by continuing their research of marine snails. Common opioid medications include Hydrocodone, Oxycontin, Morphine, and other potent pharmaceutical drugs. For the many dependent on pain pills, an alternative approach to pain relief and management is a welcome change.
You’ve heard it over and over again. The rates of opioid abuse and addiction continue to increase, despite mandated warnings on prescription bottle labels, tightened administering guidelines, and public knowledge about the dangers of extended use.
In fact, opioids lose effect over time, leading the user to seek elevated doses and frequency of use. For those seeking a heavier buzz or when unable to access opioid pills, they will turn to heroin use or injections of potentially lethal pain meds for relief. In light of the increase in popularity of opioids used by addicts and pain patients alike, uncovering a more natural alternative is essential to fight and overcome the opioid epidemic. The research team from U of U hopes to achieve just that, a real alternative to opioids.
Why Opioids Are So Dangerous
Opioids, like many other pharmaceuticals, were developed with the assistance of nature. Originating from the poppy plant, opioids have been used for hundreds of years as a means to treat pain. However, the pharmaceutical drugs produced from the poppy plant are known to be highly addictive.
Going back to the years of opium addiction, when individuals wasted their lives away in opium dens, the poppy plant has been disrupting society since early civilization. While opioid pain medications do have their uses in severe circumstances, like pain from cancer, severe accidents, or surgery, opioid pain pills are given out too easily, leading to drug addiction in many unsuspecting victims.
How Opioids Work and Fail Us at the Same Time
Opioids, even in the best of circumstances, create a false sense of the body’s natural “pain killers”, known as endorphins. When a patient takes an opioid pill for pain, they are not being given a cure for the pain. Rather, they are taking a highly addictive drug which enables the body to offer short term relief for their pain problems by creating a surge of endorphins. The pain pills artificially create endorphins, while disrupting naturally occurring endorphins in the brain chemistry.
Once a person begins pain management using opioid pills, the pain is next to impossible to bear without using more of the drug. Over the course of time and as the user develops a tolerance, additional doses may be needed to achieve the same result. The worst part is that opioid medications are filled with toxic compounds and fillers, which also have many side effects.
Pain Pills Fuel the Opioid Epidemic
This medication-based pain management protocol has led to the current opioid epidemic crisis. Current research indicates overdose rates and opioid addiction are so troublesome that 1/96 Americans are projected to die from the epidemic. Pain pills are often the gateway drug leading to opioid addiction, even heroin addiction.
For many first time heroin users, their initial experience of an opioid high was in the form of a pain pill. Pain pills are given for anything from severe pain, to a toothache. Many prescribing doctors let the prescriptions be refilled more than what’s actually needed by the patient. For anyone considering pain pills following an injury, surgery, or in the treatment of minor pain, finding an opioid alternative could help avoid long term drug dependence and the potential for overdose.
Opioid Withdrawal and Side Effects
For many suffering from pain problems, opioids offer the only relief possible. Pain can be debilitating at times, and looking for a way to feel better is only natural. However, opioid pain pills come with a host of warnings. From side effects, to opioid withdrawal symptoms, one thing is clear, once a person is on opioids, getting off them safely is not easy.
Opioid withdrawal is known to be one of the most difficult experiences to endure. Even someone coming off of just 5mg of Hydrocodone is at risk of experiencing difficult symptoms and side effects. The reason for these symptoms is due to the effect the opioids have on the endorphins, and the user’s brain chemistry. For an individual looking to eliminate the need for opioids, there is a safe place to manage the withdrawal while also restoring the brain chemistry back to healthy levels.
Get Off Opioids Safely and Restore Healthy Balance
For decades, the only way to detox from opioid use was at a rapid detox facility. While in a drug detox, the patient would be taken off opioids and monitored through the withdrawal process. Many individuals find this process painful, and luckily, there is now a safer way to go about coming off prescription pain meds.
At Alternative To Meds Center, patients undergo a slow taper process. This taper process, combined with our neurotransmitter rehab treatment, helps minimize withdrawal symptoms and restore the endorphin creation process in the brain chemistry. Rather than attempting to cold turkey off pain pills, patients recover at their own pace while under medical supervision from our industry-leading practitioners. Through this process, brain deficiencies are healed, diminishing the need for opioids.
Until research finds healthier alternatives to opioids, the safest way to break the habit to these dangerous pills is to work with an effective treatment team or doctor to oversee the withdrawal process.
By breaking one’s dependence to pain meds, many doors open that can help a person not only treat their pain, but heal for good. Through various adjunctive treatments, withdrawal symptoms can be mitigated. In addition, our integrative medicine approach helps heal the gut-brain and brain chemistry, following opioid use.