Opinion: The hidden risks of painkillers

The use of street narcotics for pain relief has become a common problem, leading to an increase in fentanyl overdoses.

This article is written in dedication to those people who lost their lives to “drug overdose” because they were forced to self-medicate to manage their physical pain.

When someone we love or respect in our community dies of an overdose, we wonder how this tragedy could have happened so close to home. There are many people among us who use stronger narcotics and opioids as pain relievers. And when doctors cut them off (due to the addictive nature of these drugs), they may resort to finding them elsewhere to avoid relapsing into their intolerable pain.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of people willing to take advantage of this need, and narcotics/opioids are common on the black market. However, these “street” drugs are often replaced or mixed with drugs such as fentanyl (a very powerful synthetic opioid).

The use of street narcotics for pain relief has become a common problem, leading to an increase in fentanyl overdoses. This drug has its place as an effective prescribed painkiller and anesthetic in hospitals, but added to other black market painkillers, it has devastating consequences.

Here is a potential scenario of how one could end up with “street” painkillers and the danger of a fentanyl overdose. If a person has inflammation (pain) in their body, they may start taking over-the-counter NSAIDs (over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, tylenol, naproxen, the advil…), but these are not meant to be taken for longer than two weeks as they have long term side effects. They can also eventually lose their effectiveness.

When over-the-counter medications stop working, one can go to the doctor to get something stronger, and may be prescribed muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety medications, stronger NSAIDs like naproxen, celecoxib, or medication steroid like cortisone or prednisone.

If or when these drugs lose their effectiveness or a stronger narcotic/opioid is needed, drugs containing codeine, tramadol, morphine, oxycontin, demerol, or fentanyl may be prescribed. These drugs are not meant for long term use as they are addictive and cause other health problems. Due to the addictive nature of opioids/narcotics, the doctor or pharmacist will most likely end up cutting off the supply of this highly effective pain reliever.

For this reason, I believe they should only be prescribed with additional support and detox options. If/when the “cut” occurs, severe withdrawal symptoms as well as severe pain can be expected. It’s common for people to search for drug options on the black market out of desperation, taking bets on what they might get (or what might be laced in street drugs).

Before anyone goes down the dangerous winding road of painkillers, please consider other options first. Certain exercises like yoga, tai chi, and specific stretches can help relieve pain, as well as physiotherapy, IMS (intramuscular stimulation), facial release, and infrared therapy. Changing our diet often makes a huge difference and if we choose foods that are botanical COX-2 inhibitors, they act like anti-inflammatory drugs, without the addictive properties or harmful side effects.

When I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease and fibromyalgia seven years ago, I started taking anti-inflammatory drugs because the doctor told me that I needed. Alternative options are often not “supported” by the medical community. After a stint on prednisone causing 30 pounds of weight gain, an ulcer, and more medication, I decided to research natural alternatives. I’m happy to say that I haven’t taken any medication for almost seven years and I’m pain free. I’ve done a lot of research on how to “eat an anti-inflammatory diet” and speak about this topic at many major health and wellness expos in the Lower Mainland. I will share my research and speaking notes with anyone suffering from pain or wishing to avoid inflammation. Please email [email protected]

This column was submitted to The Citizen by Claire Nielsen, health coach, author, speaker and founder of www.elixirforlife.ca.

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