In the world of chronic pain, the reliance on opioids has become a default, but the question remains: Are opioids truly the answer to chronic pain? So much has been done to slow the opioid epidemic, but much needs to be done still. Especially for such an ineffective means to treat chronic pain.
The Opioid Conundrum
The prevailing wisdom in conventional medicine often defaults to opioid prescriptions when grappling with chronic pain. However, a critical realization needs to be made – nobody has an opioid deficiency! Our bodies produce opioids naturally, and the root cause of chronic pain doesn't lie in a scarcity of opioids. Sure there are things we can do to help our body create more opioids, but the problem rarely lays in the quantity of our opioids.
The Opioid Receptor Predicament
The human body is an intricate web of interconnecting systems, and chronic pain is not a mere shortage of pain-relieving substances. The real hurdle lies in the opioid receptors – the gatekeepers to the pain relief response. In order for opioids to even work, whether your own endogenous opioids, or synthetic ones, they have to bind to a receptor. The receptor activates the cascade of pain reducing responses. It's important to understand that the opioid isn't what is reducing your pain. It is merely the key that unlocks the door. What happens once you open the door is your body's own magic of inherently knowing how to heal itself. Chronic pain sufferers, it turns out, have fewer opioid receptors than the average person. A phenomenon not by chance, but by the brain's doing. Increasing opioid dosage won't fix this issue which is most evident by the fact that even increasing dosing becomes ineffective with time. Prolonged use of opioids also decrease the amount of receptors you have, making chronic pain worse the longer you use them!
The Brain's Logic
The logic behind the brain's decision to reduce opioid receptors is intriguing. The less receptors one has, the more intensely they experience pain. The brain, in its wisdom, uses this mechanism as a signal – a plea to the individual that there are underlying issues yet to be addressed. In essence, it's a wake-up call, urging a comprehensive approach to tackle the root causes of pain. It is hard to ignore pain, so the brain uses pain as its primary way of communicating that something is wrong.
Opioids: Designed for Acute, Not Chronic Pain
Here lies a fundamental misunderstanding – opioids are not tailored to treat chronic pain. Their design and efficacy align with acute pain scenarios, offering quick relief in short bursts. Attempting to use opioids as a long-term solution for chronic pain is akin to fitting a square peg into a round hole. We've already determined, with great evidence, that opioids are not what is needed to fix chronic pain. They are only a bandaid to help reduce your pain enough to get through the day. Prescribing physicians get to pat themselves on the back and sleep soundly.
The Holistic Approach to Chronic Pain
To effectively address chronic pain, a paradigm shift is imperative. It's about treating the myriad causes of pain, not merely alleviating symptoms with opioids. Stop and think about how incredible the human body really is. Billions, if not trillions of functions are carried out every day without you having to think about it or do anything other than the basics of eating food and drinking water. The body knows how to heal itself better than medicine will ever be able to. Which should be argument enough that we need to stop trying to trick the body with synthetic drugs and instead redirect the practice of medicine on giving the body what it needs to do its job. The body needs certain nutrients, water, sleep, movement, and social connections to name a few - the real deficiencies most chronic pain sufferers have. You wouldn't neglect your car of gasoline and then be surprised when it doesn't run anymore. But chronic pain is simply not a gasoline deficiency that can be fixed by doing one thing. It is a whole body response that requires a whole body solution. You have to do everything right in order to put something like chronic pain into remission.
Moving Beyond Opioids
Chronic pain demands a nuanced understanding and a departure from the one-size-fits-all approach of opioid prescriptions. Rather than perpetuating a cycle of escalating doses, the focus should shift towards identifying and addressing the multifaceted origins of chronic pain. It's about empowering individuals with the knowledge that chronic pain is not an opioid deficiency but a call to delve deeper into the intricacies of the body. This is where conventional medicine gets to make a choice: continue down the path of symptom care or change course to provide a means of medicine that can help people fix their chronic pain and diseases.
Conclusion: A Comprehensive Vision for Chronic Pain
In the journey to alleviate chronic pain, let's discard the illusion that opioids hold the key to a pain-free existence. Instead, let's embrace a holistic vision that considers the entire spectrum of factors contributing to chronic pain. By addressing the root causes, understanding the intricacies of pain receptors, and giving the body what it needs to heal we pave the way for a more effective and sustainable approach to chronic pain management.