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Should Opioid Addiction Be Treated Like a Chronic Disease?

Should the opioid addiction be treated as a chronic disease? According to the American College of Physicians the answer is yes. ABC reported on a recently published position paper that demanded drastic measures be taken to curb the damage being caused by these potent pharmaceuticals.

Opiate painkillers have been in the news almost non-stop for several years. The why is that a modern tragedy is unfolding. Millions of Americans are addicted to painkillers and dying as a result. Unlike diabetes or obesity, there is a stigma attached to substance abuse. Debate still rages about whether it is a criminal matter as well as a health emergency. 

This is a subject that is fraught with controversy but notably absent from the discussion are solutions. Identifying the danger posed by these pharmaceuticals was a start, but what is the next step? Studies show that addiction affects over a quarter of those using opioids for chronic non-cancer pain. Worse, 1 in 550 patients on opioid therapy dies from opioid-related causes within 2.5 years of their first prescription.

At present, only 1 in 10 drug addicts receive the help they need, and those who do get into treatment typically face long wait times. About one-third of those who need treatment cannot afford it, or don't have insurance coverage. There's still an enormous amount of work that needs to be done to turn this epidemic around, but part of the answer is to become an educated patient, and to never fill that opioid prescription in the first place.

There are less addictive alternatives. Optimize your vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain. My personal favorite is krill oil. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work, by manipulating prostaglandins.)

Medical marijuana has a long history as a natural analgesic. Its medicinal qualities are due to high amounts (up to 20 percent) of cannabidiol (CBD), medicinal terpenes and flavonoids. Varieties of cannabis exist that are very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes you feel "stoned" — and high in medicinal CBD.
 
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