Harmony Medicine Blog

Part IV: How Ethical Pain Management Solutions Reduce Opioid Addiction and Abuse

In our final installment of “Why Pain Management is Important” we’re tackling the sobering issue of the nation’s dependence on prescription painkillers and opioid addiction.

In recent months, the gravity of Tennessee’s opioid epidemic has been well-documented by The Tennessean in a poignant series of personals stories. Not only have thousands of residents died from opioid addiction, but many hundreds more suffer from addiction and abuse. In September of last year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that more American adults use prescription painkillers than use tobacco. The issue has reached epidemic proportion. In September of 2016, President Obama declared a Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic and Awareness Week to raise awareness and to help prevent others from succumbing to addiction.

On April 27, 2016, The New England England Journal of Medicine reported “Deaths from prescription-opioid overdose have increased dramatically in the United States, quadrupling in the past 15 years. Efforts to improve pain management resulted in quadrupled rates of opioid prescribing, which propelled a tightly correlated epidemic of addiction, overdose, and death from prescription opioids that is now further evolving to include increasing use and overdoses of heroin and illicitly produced fentanyl.”

Recently the Tennessee Department of Health released a study indicating that 1,451 Tennesseans had died from drug overdoses in 2015. More than 6,000 lives were lost between 2010 and 2015, with deaths due to overdose steadily rising each year. The Department reported that the overdose death rate was 22 per 100,00, higher even than those who died in motor vehicle accidents on local highways. That translates to more than 3 Tennesseans dying from drug overdoses each day.

“It is always saddening when the reality of human tragedy involved with substance abuse is brought to light, especially given the fact that overdose deaths can absolutely be prevented,” said Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Marie Williams, in a statement released by the TN Department of Health.

How Patient-Centered, Holistic Pain Management Pain Management Centers Can Help Reduce Prescription Drug Addiction

A holistic approach to patient care and pain management can reduce opioid dependency, substance abuse, overdoses, and thousands of unnecessary deaths. In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted “Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain — United State 2016” to provide recommendations for primary care physicians prescribing painkillers for chronic pain.

“Integrated pain management requires coordination of medical, psychological, and social aspects of health care and includes primary care, mental health care, and specialist services when needed. Nonpharmacologic physical and psychological treatments such as exercise and CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy] are approaches that encourage active patient participation in the care plan, address the effects of pain in the patient’s life, and can result in sustained improvements in pain and function without apparent risks…Primary care clinicians can integrate elements of a cognitive behavioral approach into their practice by encouraging patients to take an active role in the care plan, by supporting patients in engaging in beneficial but potentially anxiety-provoking activities, such as exercise, or by providing education in relaxation techniques and coping strategies. In many locations, there are free or low-cost patient support, self-help, and educational community-based programs that can provide stress reduction and other mental health benefits.”

The report strongly encourages primary care physicians to collaborate with pain management specialists to effectively address chronic pain. “Multimodal therapies should be considered for patients not responding to single-modality therapy, and combinations should be tailored depending on patient needs, cost, and convenience.”

Furthermore, integrative pain management and holistic pain treatment services align with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “National Pain Strategy” which calls for accountability and systems by which to monitor and assess the prevention and management of pain, supporting patient-centered integrated pain management practices, reducing barriers to specialized pain care, and increasing public awareness of chronic pain.

Integrative, holistic pain management practitioners, such as board certified pain management specialists, take care to look at the whole person — not just the pain symptom — and seek the best long-range treatment for each individual.

If you or a loved one is ready to get assistance with addiction, call the Tennessee REDLINE at 1-800-889-9889 or visit www.taadas.org/Redline.htm. For a compassionate, holistic approach to pain management, contact Harmony Medicine.