Prescription Painkillers Tagged as Gateway Drug to Heroin (Dr. Mercola article)
By Dr. Mercola
According to a recent report commissioned by the Office of National Drug Control Policy,1 as many as 1.5 million Americans were chronic heroin users in 2010. Such statistics add further fuel to concerns about rising narcotics abuse and drug-related deaths.
Over the past five years alone, heroin deaths have increased by 45 percent2–an increase that officials blame on the rise of addictive prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, codeine, and Fentora, all of which are opioids (derivatives of opium).
According to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy,3 approximately 100 Americans died from drug overdoses each day in 2010.
Prescription painkillers were responsible for 16,600 deaths that year, and heroin was involved in about 3,000 deaths. (Meanwhile, cocaine use decreased by about 50 percent between 2002 and 2010.)
The reason for the resurgence of heroin is in large part due to it being less expensive than its prescription counterparts, and US officials now warn that narcotic painkillers are a driving force in the rise of substance abuse and lethal overdoses. According to the US Justice Department, prescription opiates and heroin are two of the most lethal substances available.
13 Non-Drug Solutions for Pain Relief
Considering the risks, I strongly recommend exhausting your options before resorting to a narcotic pain reliever. I believe there are better, viable alternatives. If you are suffering from pain, whether acute or chronic, I recommend working with a knowledgeable health care practitioner to determine what’s really triggering your pain, and then address the underlying cause.
Remember, along with exposing you to potentially deadly risks, medications only provide symptomatic relief. They do NOT address the underlying cause of your pain. The following options provide excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards that prescription (and even over-the-counter) painkillers carry. So if you’re in pain, try these first, before even thinking about prescription painkillers of any kind.
- Eliminate or radically reduce processed foods, grains, and processed sugars from your diet. Avoiding grains and processed sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels and decrease insulin and leptin resistance, which is one of the most important reasons why inflammatory prostaglandins are produced. That is why stopping sugar and sweets is so important to controlling your pain and other types of chronic illnesses.
- Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun or safe tanning bed exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a drug-free approach for pain management of all kinds. EFT borrows from the principles of acupuncture, in that it helps you balance out your subtle energy system. It helps resolve underlying, often subconscious, negative emotions that may be exacerbating your physical pain. By stimulating (tapping) well-established acupuncture points with your fingertips, you rebalance your energy system, which tends to dissipate pain.
- Astaxanthin is one of the most effective fat-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. Higher doses are typically required and one may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
- Ginger: This herb has potent anti-inflammatory activity and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
- Curcumin: In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility.17 A past study also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the overproduction of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.18
- Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or “Indian frankincense,” this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
- Bromelain: This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form but eating fresh pineapple, including some of the bromelain-rich stem, may also be helpful.
- Cetyl myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a “joint lubricant” and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
- Evening Primrose, black currant, and borage oils: These contain the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
- Cayenne cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
- Methods such as yoga, Foundation Training, acupuncture, meditation,19 hot and cold packs, and other mind-body techniques can also result in astonishing pain relief without any drugs.
FDA Clamps Down on Painkiller Prescriptions, But Approves New Pure Hydrocodone Product
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently recommended tighter controls on painkiller prescriptions,12, 13 and has announced its intention to reclassify hydrocodone-containing painkillers from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug. The drug schedule system classifies medications based on their potential for abuse and addiction, as well as other medical criteria. The reclassification will affect how hydrocodone-containing drugs can be prescribed and refilled. Doctors will only be allowed to prescribe a 90-day supply of the drug per prescription, and they will no longer be permitted to phone in refills.
Rather, the patient has to bring the prescription with them to the pharmacy. The new regulations are expected to take effect sometime this year. Ironically enough, while talking about the need for stricter controls and less addictive painkillers, it recently approved the first drug containing pure hydrocodone for the US market, called Zohydro ER (Zogenix). All other hydrocodone-containing painkillers on the market are mixed with other non-addictive ingredients.