Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with opioids being the most common type of drug involved. The CDC estimates that there are more than 1,000 emergency room visits daily related to the misuse of opioids and about 91 opioid overdose deaths every day. What exactly are opioids, why are they being prescribed, and why are they so dangerous? We’ll be answering those questions and more in this article. Here’s what you need to know.
What are opioids?
Opioids are a class of drugs derived from (or synthesized to mimic) compounds from the opium poppy plant. This class of drugs includes the illegal street drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, methadone, and tramadol, and prescription pain medications, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, and morphine.
When opioids travel through the bloodstream and attach to the opioid receptors in the brain cells, the cells release signals that reduce a person’s perception of pain and boost feelings of pleasure.
Opioids, such as morphine and hydrocodone, are regularly prescribed by doctors to reduce moderate to severe pain. One common reason opioids are prescribed by doctors is to treat hip, knee, or back pain caused by imbalances in the musculoskeletal system. Other common reasons are to reduce pain following surgery or pain related to chronic diseases. Synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl and methadone, are much more powerful than mainstream opioids and can also be prescribed by doctors.
Fentanyl, for example, is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and is approved for treating severe pain, typically advanced cancer pain. Fentanyl is also illegally made and sold through illicit drug markets for its heroin-like effect. There is also evidence that drug dealers are selling fentanyl in counterfeit tablets, created to look like authentic prescription medications.
Why are opioids so dangerous?
While heroin and illicit fentanyl are very dangerous and responsible for thousands of deaths each year, we’ll be focusing on prescription opioids for the remainder of this article, as they play a large role in the national opioid crisis.
Pain is one of the most common reasons that people visit a medical facility. Unfortunately, pain is poorly treated and managed in traditional medical settings. Prescription opioids are readily handed out and while they generally offer pain relief, some patients find they’re not able to remain compliant with proper dosing due to the addictive nature of these drugs.
The feelings of pain relief, pleasure, and relaxation that result from taking a prescription opioid can make a person want to continue to experience those feelings, or experience those feelings to a greater degree. Additionally, patients tend to build tolerance to opioids, meaning they need to take larger doses to achieve the same physical and psychological effects. The likelihood of developing an opioid addiction depends on many factors, including the length of time a person is prescribed opioids, the length of time they continue to take opioids, and whether they are taking the drugs as prescribed or abusing them.
Addiction to prescription opioids can quickly turn deadly. When a patient takes more of a prescription opioid than was prescribed by their doctor, toxicity is a potential complication. Opioid overdose occurs when a person has excessive stimulation of the opiate pathway, which can slow a person’s breathing and heart rate, potentially leading to death.
Statistics on opioid use and deaths
The world is experiencing a serious opioid epidemic. Since 1999, the amount of deaths caused by opioid overdoses has quadrupled, corresponding with comparable growth of prescription opioid sales. Opioid use disorders affect over 16 million people worldwide and over 2.1 million in the United States alone. There are over 120,000 deaths worldwide and almost 50,000 deaths in the U.S. annually attributed to opioids, 40 percent of which are due to prescription opioids.
The opioid crisis continues to escalate, putting thousands of people’s lives at risk every year. Many of the people that fall victim to opioids began using them with good intentions. They were simply following their doctor’s orders and seeking a way out of pain. The trouble is, this class of drugs is highly addictive and can turn even the most innocent, well-meaning people into drug addicts and put them at risk of death.
What health conditions are the cause of opioid usage?
Opioids are used as pain medications, helping those in moderate to severe pain find relief. Opioids are often prescribed following surgery or injury, or for long-term health conditions such as cancer. In recent years, there’s been a dramatic increase in the acceptance and use of prescription opioids for reducing chronic pain caused by musculoskeletal imbalances, such as back pain, hip pain, or knee pain, despite serious risks and a lack of evidence supporting their long-term effectiveness.
Custom orthotics to the rescue
Not only do prescription opioids come with the risk of addiction, serious side effects, and death, but they also don’t do anything to correct the root cause of a person’s pain. This makes their use for chronic pain conditions detrimental. Reducing people’s dependence on opiates relies on correcting whatever underlying mechanism is causing the pain in the first place. That’s where Foot Levelers custom orthotics come in.
All parts of your body are linked together—and your feet are the foundation. Your entire body is supported and balanced by your feet. As such, if your feet are pronated, as 99 percent of people’s feet are, your body will suffer in the form of knee, hip, or back pain. Conversely, when your feet are stabilized and in balance, the rest of the kinetic chain will function as it should—pain-free!
By correcting the root cause of your pain, using opioids becomes unnecessary. Foot Levelers custom orthotics have been proven in a clinical study to significantly reduce low back pain, especially when combined with chiropractic care. When pain is targeted at its core, it reduces or eliminates the need for opioids, as well as surgery.
Low back pain is not the only condition helped by wearing Foot Levelers custom orthotics. Knee pain, hip pain, and neck pain, as well as surgery involving these parts of the body, can also be avoided due to reducing stress on those parts of the kinetic chain.
The bottom line
The world is in the midst of an opioid crisis that is gaining steam with each passing year. Foot Levelers offers a safe, sensible alternative to opioids: custom-made orthotics. Our clinically- proven custom orthotics help relieve low back pain, as well as hip and neck pain, by correcting imbalances in your musculoskeletal system, which originate in your feet.
Before taking a prescription opioid for your chronic pain, consider giving Foot Levelers orthotics a try. Not only are they completely safe and non-invasive, but they also work to abolish the root cause of your pain, opening the door to a pain-free, active life.
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Katie Koschalk is a health and wellness writer residing in sunny California. She has certifications in personal training and holistic nutrition and a fascination with how to best support the body for optimal health. When not writing about wellness, you can find Katie hiking in the mountains of Northern California, whipping up healthy plant-based meals, and playing with her two adorable cats.