This week I came across a sobering video about the realities of the opiod crisis in a town not far from us. In fact it could easily be our town, or your town. Maybe it already is. The video showed the devastating effects of opiod use, addiction and subsequent heroine use as well as other drugs. What struck me the most is that a large majority of the people addicted to these dangerous medications started out taking opiods for physical pain, sometimes even mild to moderate pain.

For those of you unaware of what opiods are, here is a description from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

“Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. These drugs are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused (taken in a different way or in a larger quantity than prescribed, or taken without a doctor’s prescription). Regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can lead to dependence and, when misused, opioid pain relievers can lead to overdose incidents and deaths.”

Even the CDC states that 6/10 of drug overdose deaths are due to opiod use and between 1999 and 2015 the number of opiod related deaths had quadrupled. Coincidentally, the number of opiods sold to pharmacies, doctors and hospitals also quadrupled between 1999 and 2010. Even with all these pain medications being increased, and subsequent deaths rising, there was not any change in the amount of pain that Americans were reporting. Let me say that another way. Drugs were increasing, addiction was increasing, people were dying and there was no indication of even an improvement in symptom relief. or any functional benefit at all. In fact, deaths from drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents as the No. 1 cause of injury death in the country.

One of the most heart wrenching statistics is the dramatic increase of infants born dependent on opiods due to maternal use. Nationally, the rate of American children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) a set of symptoms experienced by babies exposed to drugs in the womb, has quadrupled over the past 15 years. What does that look like in numbers?

2,920 babies were born with NAS in the year 2000

21,732 were born with NAS in the year 2012

In 2012, one infant with NAS was born every 25 minutes.

A quick google search will come up with links to opiod epidemic stories and warnings to the public and physicians about the dangers of opiods. There are also stories of the search and development of new medications to erase the memory of pain or to trick your brain in a way to not recognize the pain being experienced.

But there is good news. And the good news lies in holistc, salutogenesis, therapies. We are seeing more acceptance and value placed on chiropractic care and it’s potential to help people regain their health and function; without the use of pharmaceuticals and surgery. Many studies have been conducted in the past 10-15 years showing the effectiveness and satisfaction rate of patients utilizing chiropractic care for their restoration of health, function and vitality.

A study in 2015 compared patients whose first-contact care with a medical vs chiropractic provider. The findings were that they had clinically similar pain relief, greater satisfaction levels, and lower overall cost if they initiated care with DCs, when compared with those who initiated care with MDs.

Another study again showed that patients who utilized chiropractic care had better outcomes than those who were under pain clinic management.

In a study comparing chiropractic care to medical care of patients with low back pain it showed that, “according to total Oswestry scores, improvement in all patients at three years was about 29% more in those treated by chiropractors than in those treated by the hospitals. The beneficial effect of chiropractic on pain was particularly clear. Those treated by chiropractors had more further treatments for back pain after the completion of trial treatment. Among both those initially referred from chiropractors and from hospitals more rated chiropractic helpful at three years than hospital management.

The conclusion: At three years the results confirm the findings of an earlier report that when chiropractic or hospital therapists treat patients with low back pain as they would in day to day practice those treated by chiropractic derive more benefit and long term satisfaction than those treated by hospitals.”

And that is WITHOUT the use of drugs or surgery!

There is definitely a crisis surrounding opiod use, and to deny that is putting your head in the sand. It is affecting all ages, income levels and communities. The answer may lie in returning to the cause of the dysfunction. To honoring the innate healing power of the body and returning our structure to thrive, heal and grow. Chiropractic may indeed be the answer to the opiod crisis.