The use of narcotic painkillers in the hopes of reducing chronic pain has increased by a fair degree over the years. Opioids are one of the most common remedies that people resort to for chronic back pain in particular. In the past, narcotics were generally only used for the kind of pain that a patient would experience during from postoperative recovery.
The reason that narcotic use in the past was so conservative was due to the widespread concern of addiction – today, the documented effects of long-term narcotic drug use may indicate that those concerns were even more well-founded than the skeptics knew.
Chronic pain continues to be one of the most prevalent public health problems in the world. Even those who are skeptical about the merits of medical healthcare are often forced to face the reality of how debilitating chronic pain can be in everyday life, leaving them a little choice but to trust in the treatment that they are prescribed.
Out of all of the conditions that affect Americans on a daily basis, pain affects a greater number of people in the nation than cancer, heart disease, and diabetes combined. Pain is the number one reason why Americans rely on the health care system, as well is the leading cause of all forms of disability. A 2006 report published by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that one in every four Americans suffered some kind of pain that did not subside for longer than 24 hours.
Market research is indicated that there are over 1.5 billion people around the world suffer from chronic pain regularly, which would amount to about 4.5% of the entire global population. The total annual cost in healthcare created by chronic pain reached up to $635 billion in 2010. The most commonly reported sources of chronic pain are lower back pain, migraines, neck pain, and pain in the face.
Despite the understandable skepticism that people have towards opioids, the striking statistics about chronic pain make it very easy to understand why many would feel pressured out of a sense of having few other options for relief. Opioids are intended to provide relief by binding with opioid receptors in the spinal cord and brain. Unfortunately, the ideal effects of these narcotic drugs are commonly far from being the only kind of effects reported by patients.
In some cases, rather than mitigating the pain, patients may develop opioid-induced abnormal pain sensitivity, completely defeating the purpose of taking the drugs in the first place. Prolonged opiate use has the potential to create detrimental hormonal effects that can reduce fertility, sex drive, and disrupt menstrual periods cycles as well.
Prolonged use of opioids for chronic pain oftentimes results in the development of opioid tolerance within half a year. The increased tolerance that occurs from prolonged opiate use makes it easier for patients to overdose. One of the direst potential downsides to opioid use is immunosuppression, in which a person’s natural defense against infections is severely compromised.
The comorbidity of all known side effects caused by narcotic drugs presents a potential threat that could be considered far more severe than chronic pain alone. There is no way to predict which of the many known side effects of narcotic drugs may manifest from using them regularly, nor how severe these effects may be should they emerge.
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