Health Blog

Health and Wellness.

04 Aug

What You Need to Know About Opioid Misuse

By: Juliana Meeker, DPT

August is Opioid Misuse Awareness Month. Every year millions of Americans use opioids to manage pain. Doctor-prescribed opioids are appropriate in some cases, but they just mask the pain—and reliance on opioids has led to the worst drug crisis in American history.

As America seeks solutions to its ongoing opioid epidemic, patients and prescribers should be especially cautious about treating pain with opioids. Opioids come with a list of serious potential side effects, and every day more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for opioid misuse.

Here are some scary statistics about the opioid epidemic:

1. In 2017, health care providers across the US wrote more than 191 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication—a rate of 58.7 prescriptions per 100 people.

2. Despite guidelines to limit opioids as a first approach to managing most chronic pain, a study found primary care clinicians write 45% of all opioid prescriptions in the United States.

3. More than 11 million people misused prescription opioids in 2017.

4. Every day, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids.

5. In 2017, prescription opioids were involved in more than 35% of all opioid overdose deaths: nearly 17,000.

6. From 1999 to 2017, almost 218,000 people in the United States died from overdoses related to prescription opioids.

7. The CDC estimates the total economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the US is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of health care, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

Meanwhile, long­-term use of opioids might not be particularly helpful for pain, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines urging the use of safer alternatives, including physical therapy, for most non-cancer-related chronic pain conditions.

Physical therapists can play a valuable role in the patient education process, including setting realistic expectations for recovery with or without opioids.

Physical therapists (PTs) treat pain through movement, hands-on care, and patient education—and by increasing physical activity you can also reduce your risk of other chronic diseases.

An active treatment plan from a physical therapist can help you improve your mobility while managing your pain, whereas opioids only mask the sensation of pain.

Here are four reasons to choose physical therapy for your pain:

Physical therapy is a safe and effective alternative to opioids. While doctor-­prescribed opioids are appropriate in some cases, choosing a safer alternative, like physical therapy, eliminates the risk of misuse and avoids the potential negative side effects. I like to tell my patients that “movement Is like medicine – we have to find the right dosage that is appropriate to your condition.”  Your physical therapist will set realistic expectations for recovery, with or without opioids.

Physical therapists help you help yourself. Physical therapists empower you to be an active participant in your own treatment. When you can “own” the treatment yourself, you have more ownership of your pain and can take control of it, instead of just letting the pain happen TO you! Depending on the severity of your pain, your therapist may work collaboratively with other health professionals to ensure a comprehensive course of treatment.

Physical therapy is cost effective. A recent study shows patients with chronic low back pain who consult physical therapists early in their treatment processes incur lower out-­of-pocket medical costs, with less probability of accruing expenses associated with opioid prescriptions, advanced imaging services or emergency room visits.

Physical therapy is accessible. In most cases, you do not need a physician referral to access physical therapists’ services in the U.S.

When it comes to your health, you have a choice. Choose more movement and better health — choose physical therapy.

The American Physical Therapy Association launched a national campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription opioids and the safe alternative of physical therapy for long-term pain management. Learn more about how physical therapists can help you manage your pain safely.

If you’re experiencing chronic pain or know someone in pain, encourage them to talk to their physician or an Elite PT about safe ways to manage pain.

Give us a call today at 318.443.3311 and let Elite Physical Therapy help you begin the journey to becoming pain free!


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