(WKBN) — From April 2020 to April of 2021, more than 100,000 people in the U.S. died of an overdose — more than ever before.
Studies found more than two-thirds of Americans want alternatives to opioids as pain management. A local doctor and a drug recovery specialist offered some suggestions.
“This opioid epidemic started with prescription pain meds and it continues today because of prescription pain meds,” said April Caraway with Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board.
“If you are never exposed to an opioid, your chances of becoming addicted to it are zero,” said dentist Dr. Frank Beck.
For those Americans who don’t want to use opioids, they can explore alternatives.
“You should ask your physician ‘Are there non-opioid alternatives available for me in this situation to manage my pain?'” Dr. Beck said.
Those alternatives could be over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen in combination with ibuprofen.
“We have physical therapy, massotherapy, accupressure, dry needling, all of these items we’re starting to see work out very well,” Dr. Beck said.
He said in many cases, opioids aren’t that efficient in treating localized pain.
“We’re not saying that opioids shouldn’t be used but the CDC says three days maximum,” Dr. Beck said. “Patients need to become aware that they have the option and their prescriber has the obligation to address their pain in the best possible way they can.”
In the last several years, Mercy Health has created training in pain management alternatives and the Mental Health and Recovery Board works with doctors on this same topic.
“We actually assess and analyze the prescribing habits of our physicians and we can actually see and identify outliers,” Dr. Beck said.
Part of the problem is what the insurance companies will and won’t pay for.
“Years ago, it was easier for us to write a script for Vicodin than it was for Motrin. That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Dr. Beck said.
Caraway said the conversation isn’t just one for adults.
“We still want to educate these kids coming up who think pills are medicine, and they are at times, but they can be dangerous,” Caraway said.
Dr. Beck said there are few downsides to the alternatives, more so a lack of education on them. But he does see both insurance coverage and education of opioid prescriptions changing for the better. However, COVID-19 put a major wrench in that education.