Indulge in physical activity for 30 mins or more daily. You can choose to walk, run, do yoga or even dance to elevate the feel good factor. Bask in sunlight at every given opportunity and fill up more on spicy foods, chocolate, nuts, seeds. Try relaxation techniques like listening to calming music or getting a full body massage. And yes, don’t forget to smile often!
Our feelings, whether they are of well-being, joy, and peace or they are of grief, depression, and anger – are all regulated by hormones and neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that communicate information between the brain and body. They relay signals between the neurons or nerve cells. These important chemicals interact with receptors located throughout the brain and the body to regulate a wide variety of processes including emotions, fear, pleasure, joy, anger, mood, and the perception of pain.
Emotional intelligence lies in our ability to become aware of our inner state and understand how to make our emotions work for us, rather than allowing them to rule over our minds.
4 Main Neurotransmitters
There are many chemicals that influence our feelings but they can be narrowed down to four main neurotransmitters which play an important role in feeling a sense of well-being or happiness.
It drives our brains reward system and its production is increased when we seek out ways to find pleasure or when we achieve an objective or goal.
It also is known as the love hormone is directly linked to human bonding and increasing trust and loyalty.
This is commonly addressed as the confidence molecule, it increases feelings of worthiness and creates a sense of belonging.
This is also known as “runners high”, its release has been shown to increase happiness, allowing people to handle extreme stress and pain, decrease hunger, and increase the immune response.
Natural Ways To Boost Your Happy Hormones
Each one of the above chemicals can be activated by making minor alterations to our lifestyles. Listed below are some ways to increase the production of these neurotransmitters naturally and without much effort:
Indulge in physical activity – it is a well-documented fact that activity of any kind increases the release of endorphins. You can choose to run, walk, do yoga or even dance to elevate the feel good factor. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the primary causes of depression.
Spend time with loved ones – exchanging information, holding hands, cuddling, all these little interactions help in increasing the production of oxytocin. Get yourself a cat or a dog if you find yourself feeling alone.
Bask in sunlight at every given opportunity – exposure to bright sunlight activates melatonin which in turn helps regulate sleep/waking rhythms and also aids in the production of serotonin.
Eat carbohydrates, spicy foods, chocolate, nuts and seeds as all these have the ability to increase the number of happy hormones circulating in our bodies.
Indulge in aromatherapy – smells have a profound effect on feelings. Scents such as vanilla, lavender, and rose are universally liked and are known to bring about a feeling of security and comfort. Pick a perfume of your choice and wear it often to feel good about yourself. Light aromatherapy candles or agarbathi around your house to help create a calm ambiance.
Laugh and cry without inhibition – laughter is known to increase production of the happy hormone but even crying helps. When you feel the urge to have a good cry, do so by all means as the body produces the rush of endorphins soon after you stop crying. This is the reason for the feeling of catharsis and relief we all feel upon letting the tears flow.
Get a massage – take advantage of the power of touch. Even a basic foot massage helps reduce stress levels as cortisol is replaced by serotonin and dopamine.
Smile – the brain does not know the difference between the real and the imaginary. Smile even when you do not feel like smiling and the brain will be fooled into producing more of the feel good hormones based on the muscle movement in your face
Listen to music – the power of sound is immense. It can take you to the heights of ecstasy or the depths of despair. Always surround yourself with sounds that suit you and play music which appeals to you. Sufi music, chants, popular songs – anything that works to make you feel better.
Master new skills – learn an unfamiliar language or start to play an instrument or even just learn to crochet or play a new board game. The brain loves nothing more than a new challenge.
Practice gratitude – the best prayer we can offer is to just be grateful for what life has given us. Expressing gratitude fills us with a positivity which results in a flood of feel-good hormones.
The Vedas talk about how our basic nature is one of “Satchidananda” or eternal bliss. By making small shifts in our daily choices and by being mindful of our conscious behavior, it is possible to improve our brain chemistry, and in turn feel better about ourselves and the world around us and motivate ourselves towards achieving our highest human potential.
If you or someone you know is hooked on prescription drugs such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, or street drugs like heroin, you’ll connect with “Chasing the Dragon,” a raw 2016 documentary about the horrors of drug addiction.
Produced by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the film features ordinary Americans sharing personal stories of danger and destruction that characterized their lives prior to recovery from hard-core drug addiction.
Because the documentary is filled with harsh language and disturbing images, parental discretion is advised.
In 2015, 52,404 Americans died from drug overdoses; 33,091 of them involved an opioid and nearly one third of them, 15,281, were by prescription.1,2,3 Meanwhile, kidney disease, listed as the 9th leading cause of death on the CDC’s top 10 list, killed 48,146.4
The CDC does not include drug overdoses on this list, but if you did, drug overdoses (63 percent of which are opioids), would replace kidney disease as the 9th leading cause of death as of 2015.
Many of those featured in “Chasing the Dragon” are regular people from good homes and loving families. The one characteristic they had in common while using was a feeling of powerlessness to escape the spiraling cycle of drug use and abuse that dominated every moment of their lives.
One recovering addict, a woman named Melissa, had this to say about her drug use: “It became my full-time job. The needle was my boss — a very demanding boss.”
To prevent you or someone you love from becoming addicted to prescription painkillers, I’d like to take a closer look at opioid abuse and offer several healthy alternatives to help you manage pain.
How Bad Is Prescription Drug Abuse in the US?
A 2015 study5 suggested 1 in 4 Americans who use opioid painkillers become addicted to them. Despite the drugs’ high risk of addiction, a 2016 NPR health poll6indicated less than one-third of people said they questioned or refused their doctor’s prescription for opioids.
Dr. Leana Wen, emergency physician and health commissioner for the city of Baltimore, recommends you discuss with your doctor any concerns you may have about receiving a prescription for narcotics.
Due to their highly addictive potential, it’s important, she says, to ensure such drugs are your best and only option:7
“Ask why. Often other alternatives, like not [taking] anything at all, taking an ibuprofen or Tylenol, physical therapy or something else can be effective. Asking ‘why’ is something every patient and provider should do.”
Wen’s concerns are well placed. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),8 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on opioids in 2014.
On average, more than 1,000 of them land in emergency rooms every day as the result of abuse or misuse of prescription painkillers.
“There’s very little difference between oxycodone, morphine and heroin,” says Dr. Deeni Bassam, board-certified anesthesiologist, pain specialist and medical director of the Virginia-based Spine Care Center. “It’s just that one comes in a prescription bottle and another one comes in a plastic bag.”9
Bassam, whose views on drug addiction are presented throughout “Chasing the Dragon,” believes most drug dependency starts innocuously:10
“A friend offers you something at a party or at home. Or you’re having a bad day, and you need something to pick you up, so somebody hands you a pill and says, ‘Here, this will help you feel better.’ That’s how this problem always starts.”
Deborah Taylor, senior vice president and executive director of Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic, a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization operating in 10 U.S. states, notes:11
“The progression of addiction and the behavior that comes with it is pretty standard regardless of where you’re born, how much money you have, how old you are and your race or nationality.
You can be the smartest person in the world — and the minute that chemical hits your bloodstream, you lose control of what it does in your body. You can’t control it. Nobody can control it. I don’t care who you are. It’s not controllable.”
From Prescription Opioids to Street Drugs
The transition from prescription opioids to street drugs like heroin is a relatively easy one. When a prescription runs out, the cost to renew it becomes unmanageable or a physician refuses to renew a prescription, many addicts look for other options.
Heroin, which is often cheaper and easier to obtain than opioids, is a popular alternative. Chemically, the drugs are very similar and provide a similar kind of high. Without additives, heroin is as dangerous as Oxycontin and equally addictive. However, when dealers cut heroin with other drugs, the results can be deadly.
According to the Chicago Tribune,12 in just six days during August 2016, a staggering 174 heroin overdoses took place in Cincinnati, Ohio, a city that records, on average, 20 to 25 overdoses a week.
The Tribune13 claims the unprecedented number of overdoses was precipitated by heroin cut with carfentanil, a drug originally developed as a tranquilizer for large animals such as elephants. Cut into heroin, it was meant to deliver a stronger and more extended high, which would presumably keep users coming back to buy more.
Instead, it resulted in a string of overdoses and deaths that left law enforcement begging local citizens to not buy heroin until the ultra-potent batch was off the streets. Their advice made sense considering carfentanil is 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than morphine.
About the overdoses, Newtown police chief Tom Synan, who is also leader of the law enforcement task force for the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, said:14
“[Dealers] are intentionally putting in drugs they know can kill someone. The benefit for them is if the user survives it is such a powerful high for them, they tend to come back …
If one or two people die, they could care less. They know the supply is so big right now that if you lose some customers, in their eyes there’s always more in line.”
Treating Your Pain Without Drugs
Prior to leaving office in January 2017, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Dr. Robert Califf addressed the devastating effects of opioid misuse, suggesting it’s time to find better ways to treat pain:15
“The public-health crisis of opioid misuse, addiction and overdose is one of the most challenging issues [the FDA] has faced during my time as commissioner. Solving this issue is critical to our future.
It’s time to put more resources into the development of non-opioid, non-addictive medications to help people who are in serious, debilitating pain. We need more research to define the most effective non-medication approaches to pain, and how to deliver them …”
Califf is right; we do need better ways to manage pain. Fortunately, many natural alternatives already exist. While not everyone who takes a prescription opioid will wind up an addict, the risk is real. For that reason, I strongly recommend exhausting the many natural alternatives before you resort to an opioid pain reliever. The health risks associated with those drugs are great, and addiction and overdose happen far more often than you may realize.
It’s particularly important for you to avoid opioids when trying to address long-term chronic pain, as your body will create a tolerance to the drug. Over time, you’ll require greater doses at more frequent intervals to achieve the same pain relief. This is a recipe for disaster and could have lethal consequences. Please don’t risk it!
Due to the many concerns around addiction and tolerance, opioids clearly have not lived up to the promises manufacturers have made. With so much focus on pharmaceutical remedies, you may not be aware of the many healthy alternatives to pain relief. Following is information about non-drug remedies, dietary changes and bodywork interventions that can help you manage your pain.
Non-Drug Remedies for Pain Relief
If you have chronic pain of any kind, please understand there are many natural, safe and effective alternatives to prescription and over-the-counter painkillers, including:
Kratom (Mitragyna speciose) is another plant remedy that has become a popular opioid substitute.16 In August, the DEA issued a notice saying it was planning to ban kratom, listing it as Schedule 1 controlled substance. However, following massive outrage from kratom users who say opioids are their only alternative, the agency reversed its decision.17
Kratom is likely safer than an opioid for someone in serious and chronic pain. However, it’s important to recognize that it is a psychoactive substance and should not be used carelessly. There’s very little research showing how to use it safely and effectively, and it may have a very different effect from one person to the next.
Also, while it may be useful for weaning people off opioids, kratom is in itself addictive. So, while it appears to be a far safer alternative to opioids, it’s still a powerful and potentially addictive substance. So please, do your own research before trying it.
Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist, originally developed in the early 1960s for the treatment of opioid addiction. When taken at very low doses (LDN, available only by prescription), it triggers endorphin production, which can boost your immune function and ease pain.
Curcumin: A primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric, curcumin has been shown in more than 50 clinical studies to have potent anti-inflammatory activity. Curcumin is hard to absorb, so best results are achieved with preparations designed to improve absorption. It is very safe and you can take two to three every hour if you need to.
Astaxanthin: One of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known, astaxanthin has very potent anti-inflammatory properties. Higher doses are typically required for pain relief, and you may need 8 milligrams or more per day to achieve results.
Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or “Indian frankincense,” this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites, as it worked well for many of my former rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Bromelain: This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful. Keep in mind most of the bromelain is found within the core of the pineapple, so consider eating some of the pulpy core when you consume the fruit.
Cayenne cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting your body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmit pain signals to your brain.
Cetyl myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in dairy butter and fish, acts as a joint lubricant and anti-inflammatory. I have used a topical preparation of CMO to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Evening primrose, black currant and borage oils: These oils contain the fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid, which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
Ginger: This herb is anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea, or incorporated into fresh vegetable juice.
Dietary Changes to Fight Inflammation and Manage Your Pain
Unfortunately, physicians often fall short when attempting to effectively treat chronic pain, resorting to the only treatment they know: prescription drugs. While these drugs may bring some temporary relief, they will do nothing to resolve the underlying causes of your pain. If you suffer from chronic pain, making the following changes to your diet may bring you some relief.
Consume more animal-based omega-3 fats. Similar to the effects of anti-inflammatory pharmaceutical drugs, omega-3 fats from fish and fish oils work to directly or indirectly modulate a number of cellular activities associated with inflammation.
While drugs have a powerful ability to inhibit your body’s pain signals, omega-3s cause a gentle shift in cell signaling to bring about a lessened reactivity to pain.
Eating healthy seafood like anchovies or sardines, which are low in environmental toxins, or taking a high-quality supplement such as krill oil are your best options for obtaining omega-3s. DHA and EPA, the omega-3 oils contained in krill oil, have been found in many animal and clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for pain relief.
Radically reduce your intake of processed foods. Processed foods not only contain chemical additives and excessive amounts of sugar, but also are loaded with damaging omega-6 fats. By eating these foods, especially fried foods, you upset your body’s ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty-acids, which triggers inflammation. Inflammation is a key factor in most pain.
Eliminate or radically reduce your consumption of grains and sugars. Avoiding grains and sugars, especially fructose, will lower your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels are one of the most profound stimulators of inflammatory prostaglandin production, which contributes to pain.
While healthy individuals are advised to keep their daily fructose consumption below 25 grams from all sources, you’ll want to limit your intake to 15 grams per day until your pain is reduced. Eating sugar increases your uric acid levels, which leads to chronic, low-level inflammation.
Optimize your production of vitamin D. As much as possible, regulate your vitamin D levels by regularly exposing large amounts of your skin to sunshine. If you cannot get sufficient sun exposure, taking an oral vitamin D3 supplement, along with vitamin K2 and magnesium, is highly advisable.
Research by GrassrootsHealth suggests adults need about 8,000 IUs per day to achieve a serum level of 40 ng/ml, but you may need even more. It’s best to get your blood level tested to be sure you’re safely within the therapeutic range.
Bodywork Methods That Reduce Pain
Due to the inherent risks of addiction and the other unpleasant side effects of prescription painkillers, I recommend you pursue one or more of the following bodywork methods before taking a narcotic for pain. Each one has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for lasting pain relief and management.
•Acupuncture: According to The New York Times,18 an estimated 3 million American adults receive acupuncture annually, most often for the treatment of chronic pain. A study19 published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded acupuncture has a definite effect in reducing four types of chronic pain, including back and neck pain, chronic headache, osteoarthritis and shoulder pain — more so than standard pain treatment. The researchers stated:
“[W]e found acupuncture to be superior to both no-acupuncture control and sham acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain … Our results from individual patient data meta-analyses of nearly 18,000 patients in high-quality randomized controlled trials provide the most robust evidence to date that acupuncture is a reasonable referral option for patients with chronic pain.”
•Chiropractic adjustments: While previously used most often to treat back pain, chiropractic treatment addresses many other problems — including asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, headaches, migraines, musculoskeletal pain, neck pain and whiplash.
According to a study20 published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, patients with neck pain who used a chiropractor and/or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain-free in 12 weeks compared to those who took medication.
•Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT):EFT continues to be one of the easiest and most effective ways to deal with acute and chronic pain. The technique is simple and can be applied in mere minutes, helping you to overcome all kinds of bodily aches and pains. A study21 published in Energy Psychology examined the levels of pain in a group of 50 people attending a three-day EFT workshop, and found their pain dropped by 43 percent during the workshop.
Six weeks later, their pain levels were reported to be 42 percent lower than before the workshop. As a result of applying EFT, participants felt they had an improved sense of control and ability to cope with their chronic pain. In the video featured below, EFT expert Julie Schiffman, teaches you how to use EFT to address chronic pain.
•Massage: Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation, relieve pain and reduce levels of stress chemicals such as cortisol and noradrenaline. A systematic review and meta-analysis22 published in the journal Pain Medicine, included 60 high-quality and seven low-quality studies that looked into the use of massage for various types of pain, including bone and muscle, fibromyalgia, headache and spinal-cord pain.
The study revealed massage therapy relieves pain better than getting no treatment at all. When compared to other pain treatments like acupuncture and physical therapy, massage therapy still proved beneficial and had few side effects. In addition to relieving pain, massage therapy also improved anxiety and health-related quality of life.
Final Thoughts About ‘Chasing the Dragon’
With respect to “Chasing the Dragon,” U.S. FBI director James Comey said:23
“This film may be difficult to watch, but we hope it educates our students and young adults about the tragic consequences that come with abusing these drugs, and it will cause people to think twice before becoming its next victim.”
Every generation has its drug of choice, and Bassam suggests this generation’s drug of choice is prescription opiates, which is far more devastating and addictive than anything law enforcement and the medical community have seen in the past. The current level of drug addiction in the U.S. is real and dangerous, says Bassam:24
“How do you know you’re an addict? It’s when you’re doing something you know is not good for you, that’s harming you, but you can’t help yourself. When your relationships are starting to fall apart around you, and you don’t care. When the only thing on your mind is how to get the substance and how to get to the next high — you’re an addict. You can’t maintain an opiate addiction and a normal life for very long.”
If someone you know is at risk for or is presently struggling with drug addiction, this raw and realistic documentary is worth your time.
[A vitally important article and something that MUST be addressed. TMR]
By Dr. Mercola
The opioid overdose epidemic in the U.S. killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, which is more than any other year on record, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While the opioids referenced include both heroin and prescription opioids, nearly half of overdose deaths involve the prescription drugs.1
Prescription opioids such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine and methadone are widely prescribed for pain relief. Initially, they were intended to treat severe pain following surgery or injury or due to illnesses such as cancer.
However, they’re now increasingly prescribed for many types of pain, including chronic back pain or pain from osteoarthritis. Opioid prescriptions nearly quadrupled in the U.S. between 1999 and 2013, despite reported pain levels remaining stagnant.
By 2014 nearly 2 million Americans were dependent on or had abused the drugs,2and the situation is only getting worse. There are even reports that one opioid maker — Purdue Pharma — knowingly allowed its drugs to be funneled into the black market.
Drug Maker Sued for Funneling Pills Into the Black Market
Purdue Pharma is being sued by the city of Everett, Washington, which has been hard-hit by deaths from opioid painkiller and heroin abuse.
The suit alleges that Purdue Pharma, which manufactures OxyContin, supplied the drug to “obviously suspicious pharmacies and physicians and enabl[ed] the illegal diversion of OxyContin into the black market” in the city.3
Mayor Ray Stephanson told CBS News that the city has been significantly damaged and its resources, including first responders and even crews cleaning up syringes in public parks, significantly strained as a result of the drugs flowing into their community.
The case is built around a 2016 investigation by the Los Angeles Times, which revealed OxyContin was being trafficked illegally from California to Washington, and suggested Purdue Pharma knew about it but did nothing to stop it.4 The drug maker is no stranger to litigation. CBS News reported:5
“In 2007, Purdue Pharma and its executives paid more than $630 million in legal penalties to the federal government for willfully misrepresenting the drug’s addiction risks.
The same year, it also settled with Washington and other states that claimed the company aggressively marketed OxyContin to doctors while downplaying the addiction risk. As part of that settlement, it agreed to continue internal controls to identify potential diversion or abuse.”
Anyone Can Become Addicted to Opioids
Even when taken as directed, prescription opioids can lead to addiction as well as tolerance, which means you need an increasingly stronger dose to get the pain-relieving effects.
Physical dependence, in which you suffer withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drugs, can also result along with other issues like increased sensitivity to pain, depression, low levels of testosterone and more.6
“Anyone who takes prescription opioids can become addicted to them. In fact, as many as  in  patients receiving long-term opioid therapy in a primary care setting struggles with opioid addiction. Once addicted, it can be hard to stop,” the CDC notes.7
According to the latest CDC statistics, 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Unfortunately, the opioid epidemic is spiraling out of control not only in the Everett region but across the U.S.
Seventy Percent of Businesses Affected by Drug-Addicted Employees
A staggering 70 percent of U.S. businesses say they have workers affected by prescription drug abuse, according to a new report from the National Safety Council (NSC).8
Seventy-one percent of the employers surveyed agreed that such drug abuse is a disease, but 65 percent still felt justified in firing an employee struggling with drug addiction. NSC reported:9
“Drug poisonings, largely from opioid painkillers, now eclipse car crashes as the leading cause of preventable death among adults. Nearly half of Americans are personally impacted by prescription drug addiction, with 44 percent knowing someone who is addicted to a prescription pain reliever.
Seventy-five percent of those struggling with a substance use disorder are in the workforce, revealing a hidden epidemic that many employers are struggling to address.”
Most employers said they felt unprepared to respond to prescription drug abuse in the workplace, with only 19 percent saying they feel “extremely prepared.”
Most companies lack training to help employees spot signs of misuse, and while about 57 percent said they conduct drug testing on employees, more than 40 percent do not screen for synthetic opioids.
In addition, 88 percent of employers reported interest in their insurer covering alternative treatments for pain relief to help people avoid taking opioids, although 30 percent said they would not take action to request such coverage from their insurance companies.10
West Virginia Struggles to Keep up With Demand for Funerals
West Virginia has a $2 million annual budget to provide funeral assistance for families who cannot afford them. For the last five years, however, the program has been overwhelmed with funerals, driven in part by the opioid epidemic. In 2017, the program is nearly out of money four months before the end of the fiscal year.11
West Virginia had the highest drug overdose death rate in the U.S. in 2015, with 41.5 deaths per 100,000 residents — nearly three times higher than the U.S. average.
Among white males aged 15 to 34, overdose fatalities account for more than 28 percent of deaths. West Virginia funeral director Robert C. Kimes told The Washington Post:12
“When you get an overdose, typically it’s going to be a younger individual who’s not financially in a great position … I’ve heard from several funeral directors that the majority of [overdose deaths they deal with] are addressed via the indigent burial program.”
In Connecticut, meanwhile, the chief medical examiner considered renting a refrigerated truck in 2016 to store bodies because the storage space at the medical examiner’s office is often maxed out.
The space shortage is attributed to rising drug overdose deaths, including opioid overdoses, which are pushing many medical examiner and coroner offices to their limits.
In areas like Cincinnati, Ohio, forensic pathologists responsible for conducting autopsies on many such victims conducted more than 325 autopsies in 2016. The National Association of Medical Examiners’ accrediting program puts the limit at 325 a year, and offices that conduct more risk losing accreditation.
Some coroners’ offices are also facing backlogs of DNA testing for drug investigations, again in large part due to overdose deaths.13
Drug Companies Ship 433 Pain Pills for Every Person in West Virginia
A Charleston Gazette-Mail investigation in 2016 revealed that drug companies shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia over a six-year period, as more than 1,700 state residents died from overdoses of the drugs. That’s enough to provide 433 pills for every person (including children) in the state.
As occurred in Washington, drug makers seemingly looked the other way while shipping massive amounts of the drugs to small mom-and-pop pharmacies. The Gazette-Mail reported:14
“For more than a decade, the same distributors disregarded rules to report suspicious orders for controlled substances in West Virginia to the state Board of Pharmacy, the Gazette-Mail found.
And the board failed to enforce the same regulations that were on the books since 2001, while giving spotless inspection reviews to small-town pharmacies in the southern counties that ordered more pills than could possibly be taken by people who really needed medicine for pain.
As the fatalities mounted — hydrocodone and oxycodone overdose deaths increased 67 percent in West Virginia between 2007 and 2012 — the drug shippers’ CEOs collected salaries and bonuses in the tens of millions of dollars. Their companies made billions.”
State of Emergency Declared in Maryland
In Maryland, meanwhile, Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency due to opioid addiction and pledged to put another $50 million toward prevention, treatment and enforcement services.
In the first nine months of 2016, nearly 1,500 Maryland residents were killed due to heroin and fentanyl (a synthetic opioid) overdoses, many of whom initially became addicted to prescription painkillers, The Washington Post reported. This is a 62 percent increase from the previous year.15
While the state has yet to detail how the emergency declaration will help stop overdose deaths, it’s expected that law enforcement, social services and public health providers would be coordinated to help achieve the goal. To date, the governor rejected a proposal to create safe sites where heroin users can access clean needles and be monitored to prevent overdose.
A report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recommended two “safe-drug consumption spaces” be opened in the city of Baltimore, citing similar programs that have been started in cities like Vancouver, which have seen a decrease in overdose deaths.16
Young Mothers Prescribed Poison
These addictive and potentially deadly drugs are even being prescribed to women who have just given birth, putting them and their children at serious risk. One study in Obstetrics and Gynecology revealed that more than 1 in 10 Medicaid-enrolled women filled a prescription for an opioid following vaginal delivery to treat post-delivery pain.17
Fourteen percent of them then went on to fill a second prescription within six to 60 days after delivery. Separate research has shown that 1 in 300 women who fill a prescription for opioids following cesarean delivery go on to become persistent users.18
A second study revealed that young children of mothers prescribed opioids were at a significantly increased risk, by 2.5 times, of overdose.19 Among children, 1 in 10 of overdoses occurred in infants under 1 year, while half occurred in children 2 years or younger. Study coauthor Dr. Yaron Finkelstein told Forbes:20
“One or two tablets of an opioid can be very risky and potentially fatal to a toddler … Obviously, pain needs to be addressed and properly managed. But when physicians prescribe, I think they should consider alternatives to opioids, alternatives that are less addictive, as well as dispensing smaller amounts so there’s none left over in the house that might be accessed by young children.”
Heroin Overdoses Quadrupled in 5 Years
From 2010 to 2015, the number of people who died from heroin overdoses quadrupled in the U.S., reaching nearly 13,000 overdose deaths in 2015. The data, from the National Center for Health Statistics, points to the growing severity of the prescription opioid epidemic as well, as people who use the prescription drugs are 40 times more likely to use heroin — a much cheaper stand-in for the prescription pills.21
The state of Massachusetts also cited a 24 percent rise in opioid overdose deaths compared to last year, including from fentanyl, a drug that is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. According to the CDC:22
“ … [M]ost recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose and death in the U.S. are linked to illegally made fentanyl.2 It is sold through illegal drug markets for its heroin-like effect. It is often mixed with heroin and/or cocaine as a combination product — with or without the user’s knowledge — to increase its euphoric effects.”
Massachusetts now has a law in effect that is intended to help fight opioid addiction by putting a seven-day limit on first-time prescriptions for opioid pain relievers.23
Non-Drug Solutions for Pain Relief
Not everyone who takes a prescription opioid will wind up an addict, but the risk is real. This is why I strongly recommend exhausting other options before you resort to an opioid pain reliever, especially for mild to moderate pain. The health risks associated with these drugs are great and addiction and overdose happen far more often than you might think.
If you have chronic pain of any kind, please understand that there are many safe and effective alternatives to prescription and even over-the-counter painkillers. The pain remedies that follow are natural, providing excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards that pain medications often carry.
Astaxanthin: One of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known, astaxanthin has very potent anti-inflammatory properties. Higher doses are typically required and one may need 8 milligrams or more per day to achieve this benefit.
Ginger: This herb is anti-inflammatory 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: Curcumin is the primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric. In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added only 200 milligrams of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility.24 In fact, curcumin has been shown in over 50 clinical studies to have potent anti-inflammatory activity, as well as demonstrating the ability in four studies to reduce Tylenol-associated adverse health effects.
Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or “Indian frankincense,” this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites, as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Bromelain: This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful. Keep in mind that most of the bromelain is found within the core of the pineapple, so consider leaving a little of the pulpy core intact when you consume the fruit.
Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a “joint lubricant” and an anti-inflammatory. I have used a topical preparation 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.
Evening Primrose, Black Currant and Borage Oils: These contain the 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 transmit pain signals to your brain.
Dietary Changes and Additional Pain Relief Options
When physicians don’t know how to effectively treat chronic pain, they resort to the only treatment they know: prescription drugs, which will do nothing to solve the underlying reasons why you’re in pain. Toward that end, if you suffer from chronic pain, there’s a good chance you need to tweak your diet as follows:
Start taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat like krill oil.Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work: they positively influence prostaglandins.) The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA contained in krill oil have been found in many animal and clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for pain relief.
Reduce your intake of most processed foods as not only do they contain sugar and additives, but also most are loaded with omega-6 fats that upset your delicate omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. This, in turn, will contribute to inflammation, a key factor in most pain.
Eliminate or radically reduce most grains and sugars (especially fructose) from your diet. Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels are one of the most profound stimulators of inflammatory prostaglandin production. That is why eliminating sugar and grains is so important to controlling your pain.
Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain. This satisfies your body’s appetite for regular sun exposure.
Finally, the natural pain-relief methods that follow are useful for ongoing and lasting pain relief and management:
Chiropractic adjustments: According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), patients with neck pain who used a chiropractor and/or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain-free in 12 weeks compared to those who took medication.25
Massage: Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation, relieve pain and reduce levels of stress chemicals such as cortisol and noradrenaline.
Acupuncture: Researchers concluded that acupuncture has a definite effect in reducing chronic pain such as back pain and headaches — more so than standard pain treatment.26