How Better Pain Management May Solve the Opioid Crisis

You may have heard about the ‘opioid crisis’ on the news recently or perhaps you know a family member or friend who is struggling with drug addiction. In 2018 we are living through a major public health crisis that is resulting in a record level of accidental overdose and drug-related death, largely as a result of the use and abuse of prescription pain medications. This crisis is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon as the casualty toll continues to climb.

Health authorities, such as The Penington Institute, have labelled the issue as an ‘epidemic’ while recent figures reveal that opioid-related deaths have surpassed the national annual road toll.

How is this happening and what can we do about it as a community?


First the Facts: Opioid Addiction and Usage in Australia

Australians are dying in increasing numbers from overdose linked to strong pharmaceutical painkillers and methamphetamines.

The following facts highlight the issue:

  • 2,023 Australians died from drug-related causes in 2015, up from 1,313 deaths in 2001
  • Almost 100% more deaths from accidental drug overdose (1,489 in 2015) then from car accidents (712 in 2015)
  • Australians aged between 40-49 are the most likely to die of an accidental overdose, dispelling any misconceptions that accidental overdose is confined to younger generations

The opioid crisis in Australia has really taken off in the last ten years or so, as the following statistic highlights:

  • Between 2008-2014 there was an 87% increase in prescription opioid deaths in Australia

You may think that the crisis with drugs stems from illicit drug use, such as the use and abuse of heroin.

The following statistics from 2014 reveal something different entirely:

  • 69% of drug-related deaths come from prescription medications
  • 31% of drug related deaths come from illicit drugs


So Why are People Being Prescribed Prescription Painkillers?

Why are people prescribed painkillers?

According to data from the National Institute of Drug Abuse in the United States, there was almost a 300% increase in opioid prescriptions dispensed by U.S. pharmacies,  from 76 million in 1991 up to  219 million prescriptions in 2011.

This correlates with a near tripling in opioid related death over the same period.

Do you see the connection? Do we have a system that structurally supports problematic prescribing practices?

Opioids are commonly prescribed for a range of pain conditions, including the following:

  • To treat moderate to severe pain
  • Injury
  • Surgery
  • Chronic health conditions

They may also be prescribed for headaches, back pain, joint pain and chronic abdominal pain, despite the evidence of their effectiveness for these issues being thin.

Take lower back pain for example. Sure, taking pain medication may provide you with short-term pain relief but will that same pain pill do anything to address the cause of your back pain?

Given that we know opioids can be highly addictive and their regular taking may lead to accidental overdose and death, is there a better way to management pain?


Are There Better Ways to Manage Chronic Pain?


How can we better manage chronic pain conditions?

For some patients who experience chronic pain conditions like back pain, perhaps we need to focus more on the causes of that pain in the first instance. As the ABC reports, pain management approaches, if thoughtfully applied, may be safer and more effective in some cases. Non-drug strategies may include manual therapy (chiropractic care), exercise, diet, mind-body relaxations techniques other lifestyle changes.

While opioid misuse in Australia is a difficult and multi-layer problem, blame can’t simply be given to any one group of medical practitioners, regulators or patients. Education about better pain management strategies certainly will play a role, for both the medical practitioner and consumers, if we want to alleviate the opioid epidemic and reverse the statistics highlighted in this article.


Help with Opioid Abuse


There is lots of help available if you need it.

There is help available.

1) Know that you’re not alone

Many people are going through the same thing.

2) There is help available

Support organisations such as Lifeline, Beyond Blue and Heads Up are available to help with addiction and drug issues. You can also talk with friends, family and your local doctor or chiropractor.

3) Addiction challenges are survivable

Be aware addiction challenges are survivable and that help is at hand, just reach out.


Contact Fairlight Chiropractic

Contact the team at Fairlight Chiropractic to see how we may help you to address chronic pain conditions, or for anything else.

Fairlight Chiropractic
143 Sydney Rd, Fairlight NSW 2094

Please feel free to contact us today. We look forward to discussing your health needs and how you may benefit from chiropractic care.

Phone: 02 9949 3800