Treating back pain with painkillers has become a controversial topic. And there’s a particular stigma against people that regularly use opiates to treat back pain. The media reports on the use and misuse of drugs such as Oxycontin and morphine almost daily, backed with statistics of rising rates of overdose.
And though many people think that prescription drug use is mostly a young person’s problem, a recent report suggests that more than 70 percent of drug related deaths are among seniors. Doctors are often blamed for prescribing too freely and without fully understanding the long-term effects of opiate use. But finding a balance between taking enough medication to get through the day and more than you need is tricky. If it wasn’t for the addictive nature of opiates, taking them only when you need them wouldn’t be an issue. And even as pharmaceutical companies look to tweak the formulation of Oxycontin to reduce the possibility of overdose, the option to over-medicate is still a major concern.
Opiods work by attaching to receptors in the brain which in turn blocks pain. By mimicking natural neurotransmitters, opiods basically trick receptors and enable the drug to bond with nerve cells to increase dopamine production. Dopamine is of course the pleasure chemical of the body which also regulates movement, emotion and motivation. That euphoric feeling after taking drugs like Oxycontin and morphine is what the brain becomes addicted to, and tolerance for these drugs increases over time.
A recent study through BMJ Open points out that people with back injuries treated with Opiods are off work longer than those not prescribed the drug. However, recent research published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery reveals that opioid use after spine surgery predicts long-term opioid use and further emphasizes the need for alternative forms of treatment such as acupuncture to treat back pain.