Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers: Overdose and Alternative Treatments

In 2014, the United States reached startling highs in deaths from overdoses — 47,055 deaths, which was an increase of 6.5% from 2013. About 60% of this number included overdoses from opioids. Opioids include certain prescription pain relievers and heroin, and more than half of the overdoses were from prescription painkillers. This figure quadrupled from 1999 and is becoming epidemic among all sexes, races, and ages.

What Is an Overdose?

A person may get an overdose when consuming too many drugs for the body to handle or mixing different kinds of drugs. This includes all types of drugs, including medication prescribed by a doctor or over the counter medicines.

When to Call an Ambulance

An overdose is often unexpected, especially since most are accidental. Should you experience any of these symptoms or notice these signs in another person, call 911:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Severe headaches
  • Severe chest pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Extreme paranoia or confusion
  • Shallow breathing or not breathing at all
  • Floppy arms and legs
  • Blue lips or fingertips

Overdose Repercussions

When a person experiences an overdose, oxygen is cut off from the brain, either partially or completely. The longer the brain is without oxygen, the greater the risk of brain damage. Here is a list of the effects an overdose can have on people:

  • Death
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Brain death
  • Balance and coordination issues
  • Hearing and vision problems
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Concentration issues
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Problems with memory

Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers

An overdose from prescription opioid pain relievers is often accidental, but can also be intentional. Intentional cases are usually when a person wants to get intoxicated or harm oneself. Accidental overdoses can happen when a person mistakenly takes the wrong medication or incorrect dosage, or when drugs are left within the grasp of a young child. Children under the age of five tend to place everything they see in their mouths, so it’s imperative to keep drugs away from them.

About 2.1 million people are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers. In a survey, almost 50% of teens believed that prescription drugs are safer than illegal street drugs, while 60–70% said they get their drugs from their home medicine cabinets.

Most deaths from prescription opioid pain relievers are preventable, and addiction is unnecessary.

Alternative Treatments for Pain

Since prescription opioid pain relievers are so dangerous and addictive, it’s wise to look at alternative ways to treat chronic pain. Here is a list of different treatment options to reduce chronic pain:

  • Eat healthy: A plant-based diet rich in fresh vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fruit will dramatically cut down inflammation in the body. Most people will be able to lose weight and feel lighter when they stop having animal protein, processed food, refined sugar, lots of bread and pasta. The pain immediately begins to decrease.
  • Deep breathing and meditation: Practicing deep breathing and being more mindful of your thoughts and actions allows the body to relax. A relaxed body and mind allows pain to become more bearable.
  • Good night’s sleep: When a person is not sleeping well, their body is tired and tense, amplifying their pain. By drastically cutting down on electronic use in the evenings and even during the day allows the mind to not feel so agitated and hopefully induce good quality sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol: Alcohol disturbs sleep and makes you restless. Alcohol can also amplify pain.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking slows the healing process and interferes with the blood circulation of the body leading to increased pain.
  • Exercise: Low impact exercises can help improve mobility and decrease pain. Studies showed that yoga and Tai Chi can improve chronic pain in the back and joints, and improve fibromyalgia.
  • Physical therapy: Ongoing exercises can have long-term pain relief, but it takes work and commitment from the patient.
  • Chiropractic care and acupuncture: Certain pain issues can be optimally addressed by chiropractic and acupuncture care.
  • Massage: Massage therapy will usually give you only short term relief, but it can be quite successful in relieving lower back pain.

If you suffer from chronic pain, addiction problems with prescription medication or any other drug, and are looking for alternative methods to treat your pain, reach out to Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. I can help you manage chronic pain, address the root problems of your pain, and help you overcome an addiction.


This article was originally published at sfadvancedhealth.com and republished here with the permission from Payal Bhandari MD.