Health care providers may prescribe opioids to treat moderate to severe pain, using the lowest dose possible for the shortest amount of time. Though effective at reducing pain, opioids are highly addictive, and regular opioid use increases your risk of addiction and dependence on the drug.
At Orthopedic & Wellness in Frederick, Waldorf, and Germantown, Maryland, our orthopedic surgeon and pain management experts, Dr. Ojedapo Ojeyemi and Dr. Matthew Roh, understand the dangers of regular opioid use and offer other pain-relieving treatment options whenever possible.
Here, we explain how opioids work, the dangers of regular use, and alternative pain management treatments.
Opioids are a class of drugs that contain chemicals that bind to the opioid receptors found throughout your central and peripheral nervous system. Your opioid receptors manage pain, mood, and stress, as well as breathing and digestion. They’re also part of your brain’s reward system.
When the chemicals in opioids bind to the opioid receptors, it triggers a chemical reaction that blocks the transmission of pain signals, reducing painful sensations. Opioids also increase activity in the nerve cells that make dopamine, a brain chemical that elicits feelings of pleasure. The sudden increase in dopamine activity creates feelings of euphoria.
Dangers of regular opioid use
Opioids are generally safe when you take them as directed by a health care professional for short periods of time. However, the euphoric feeling opioids produce creates a strong desire for the drug, making it difficult to resist use. Over time, you need to take more of the drug to experience both pain relief and euphoria, leading to misuse.
Regular use of opioids leads to physical dependence on the drug, causing you to experience extremely unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when you decrease your dosage or attempt to stop using the opioids.
Additionally, habitual use of opioids may lead to other health problems like chronic constipation and sleep-disordered breathing, a condition in which you stop and restart breathing while you sleep.
You’re also at greater risk of drug overdose the longer you stay on opioids.
Pain relief without opioids
Chronic pain is complex, and no single treatment works for everyone. However, because of the dangers of regular opioid use, we customize pain management plans and include nonopioid pain-relieving treatments such as:
- Behavioral therapy
- Physical therapy
- Practicing good posture
- Topical pain treatments
- Nonopioid oral pain medications
We also encourage healthy lifestyle habits to improve pain control, such as eating a balanced diet, finding healthy ways to reduce stress, and getting at least seven hours of sleep a night.
We also offer Suboxone®, a prescription medication that reduces opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone is also effective at relieving chronic pain in our patients who fail to get relief from other methods.
Regular opioid use can have serious health consequences. If you’re looking for an alternative pain management plan, we can help. Call the office most convenient to you, or click the Book online button to make an appointment today.