Opioid addiction is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the United States. Pain medications are prescribed at alarmingly high rates, for anything from a dental procedure to a major surgery or chronic illness. While opioids tend to be safe when taken as prescribed by the person for whom they are intended, it is incredibly easy to develop dependencies that make them difficult to stop using. The frequency at which they are prescribed means these medications can be found in most households, making it easier for them to fall into the wrong hands and be misused.
Why is Opioid Abuse Now an Opioid Epidemic?
As rates of addiction rise, overdose-related deaths have skyrocketed. Prescription opioids are responsible for more deaths than heroin every year. With the dangers of opioid abuse becoming so obvious, it can be difficult to understand how these numbers continue to rise. The fact that opioids are prescribed by doctors can often provide users with a false sense of security regarding the safety of these medications. Opioids are incredibly effective at blocking pain and they simultaneously release endorphins that cause euphoria—because of this, many fail to see (or choose not to see) the downside of using the drugs. It is easy to become wrapped up in the appeal of the benefits of the drugs and overlook the potential consequences of use. Over time, the brain begins to rely on the effects of opioids to feel “normal,” and as tolerance increases, higher doses are required to achieve the same effects.
Many people are able to use opioids without becoming addicted; however, the potential to develop an addiction is incredibly high. The longer opioids are used, the more likely a person is to develop increased tolerance, dependency, or addiction. Opioids are often prescribed for long-term pain management, which can increase the potential for addiction.
Acupuncture: An Alternative to Painkillers
The risks associated with use of prescription opioids has caused many to explore safer alternative pain management solutions. Holistic approaches to pain management have grown increasingly popular in recent years to eliminate risk factors associated with use of painkillers.
Many find acupuncture functions as a safe alternative to painkillers. There are several reasons why people favor acupuncture and similar treatment approaches over medication.
- It encourages the body to heal itself: Rather than relying on medications to suppress pain and essentially mask the condition, acupuncture stimulates the body to heal itself. The body is able to heal itself naturally, and acupuncture can help encourage that process.
- Studies show that it is effective: Painkillers can temporarily relieve pain and mask symptoms, but they do not cure the condition. While it may seem easier to go to a doctor who will prescribe medications, research published in Archives of Internal Medicine found that in over 29 studies involving 18,000 participants, acupuncture relieved common forms of pain by 50 percent.
- Acupuncture can help treat numerous conditions: Acupuncture is commonly practiced outside the realm of addiction. It is used to alleviate symptoms of multiple conditions from menstrual cramps to anxiety. Many attest to its ability to improve overall health.
- Acupuncture does not come with negative side effects: Unlike opioids, acupuncture does not produce side effects or withdrawal symptoms. Many who use opioids for pain management experience side effects such as nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and fainting.
Acupuncture is becoming a favored alternative for pain management because it is safe. In a world where the idea of taking a pill and being healed is constantly being advertised, the risks associated with opioid use have caused many to consider safer solutions. While opioids can provide relief from chronic pain, the relief is often accompanied by side effects that can actually worsen the initial condition. Even in cases where a person has been using opioids for pain management and has become dependent, acupuncture is effective in helping ease the withdrawal process and provide relief, both physically and mentally.
While some may be apprehensive to try an alternative, there are virtually no risks associated with acupuncture, making it well worth exploring. Opioids can be effective, but the risks associated with use can often outweigh the benefits. Although some people may be hesitant due to a fear of needles, acupuncturists are able to help clients through the process and minimize anxiety. With the potential for relief and no negative side effects, acupuncture is growing in popularity and becoming more widely recommended in holistic treatment.
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