Opioids are a class of pharmaceutical drugs known to relieve pain however, they are also notorious for being highly addictive.
It is estimated that in the United States over 115 people die from opioids – every day! This shocking number shows why overdosing from opioids including prescription drugs, heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl has recently been called an American crisis.1
When you are suffering from common aches and pains, chronic pain or discomfort from injury recovery using natural therapies can help you avoid opioid medications.
Try using these 5 pain relievers to reduce the opiate epidemic:
One – Cannabis
Marijuana has been considered contraband for decades. Today, things are a little different and now cannabis products are found to be “legal,” in 29 states.2
While still prohibited under federal law, cannabis products can be purchased and used in many places without penalty.
Shown in recent clinical trials as one of the most effective natural painkillers, cannabis products include a range of compounds including cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the two most notable cannabinoids. Studies show that cannabis products are one of the best ways to reduce opioid use.3
One recent study published in the April, 2018 Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA revealed that medical cannabis laws help limit the use of opioid painkillers and may serve as a tool in the opioid crisis.4
This bright yellow root spice has been used for thousands of years not only to flavor curry recipes but also for its anti-inflammatory effects.
Today, it is known to be one of the best natural painkillers in existence. Commonly taken as a dietary supplement, the active compound found inside turmeric known as curcumin is responsible for the health benefits. However, only small amounts can be found inside turmeric root.5
Do curcumin supplements really work as natural painkillers? Studies can confirm that the use of natural anti-inflammatory supplements like curcumin is effective for pain relief.6
Consider replacing over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which can cause accidental overdose with curcumin – a powerful natural anti-inflammatory.7
Three – Hot Peppers
These can be purchased for a dollar at any market. While there are hundreds of varieties, most hot peppers contain the active painkiller ingredient known as capsaicin.
It is this same compound that gives spicy peppers their fire-y taste and also the pain-relieving ability of capsaicin topical products. Use lotions, balms and pain-relieving body balms made with capsaicin to heat up aching muscles and relax away pain.
Four – Peppermint Oil
You can find this at any store where health foods are sold. While all types of mint contain cooling menthol, peppermint is the strongest variety of mint offering potent pain-relieving capabilities. Use it topically to ease muscle aches and pains almost instantly with a refreshing, cool feeling.
To use peppermint oil in a pain-relieving massage add 3-5 drops of the oil directly to the palms of your hands and then add 3-5 drops of another oil like olive, almond or avocado to carry the peppermint further across the skin. Then, gently rub your hands together to blend the oils before massaging into the affected area for pain relief.
CAUTION: Using peppermint oil can be harmful to delicate areas of the body so use carefully and always wash your hands after rubbing peppermint oil into muscles. Touching your eyes or other areas may cause serious irritation.
Five – Epsom Salt
This is a type of salt with a rough, granular texture. It contains a compound known as Magnesium sulfate (a combination of minerals magnesium and sulfate) which can be absorbed through the skin to ease muscle tension, aches and pain.
To use epsom salt as a bath soak: Add 1 cup of epsom salts to a warm bath and soak for 15 minutes to relieve pain, inflammation and muscle cramping. Also works to draw out splinters.
Do I Need Painkillers?
Painkillers are also known as analgesics. These can be prescribed in other forms besides opioid medications including over-the-counter (OTC) headache medicines, cold and flu syrups, menstrual formulas, toothache relief and many more.
The most common OTC pain relievers include acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) which may be why accidental overdose is so common.
However, it is important to note that research recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA showed that opioid medications are no more effective than non-opioids.
In the randomized clinical trial, 240 participants used one type of painkiller (opioid or non-opioid). Researchers found that among the participants, no significant difference was seen in pain relief scores between the classes of medications. Studies confirm that opioids are really no more effective than an over-the-counter pain reliever.8
OTC medications can be found in over 600+ products and lead to an accidental overdose, and ultimately even death.9 So, it is recommended that you use as many natural painkillers as possible before turning to pharmaceuticals, avoiding opioids whenever possible.
More Information About the Opioid Epidemic
You may already know that misusing painkillers can be dangerous. But you may not realize these other facts about the opioid crisis:
- 21 to 29 percent of people who receive opioid prescriptions misuse them
- Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder
- 4 to 6 percent who misuse opioid prescriptions
transition to heroin
- About 80 percent of people who use heroin misused opioid prescriptions first10
Talking to a Counselor
If you or someone you know is struggling with an opioid addiction, talking to a professional counselor about the drugs can help. Today, more people than ever before are suffering with the negative effects of these highly addictive medications.
So, take any warning signs of opioid misuse seriously. They may include physical dependence, constipation, changes in the eyes, nausea, low libido, pain sensitivity, slurred speech and even shallow breathing. And please, talk to a trained counselor if you are worried about someone you care about, before it’s too late.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Opioid Overdose Crisis. 3 2018.
- Melia Robinson, Jeremy Berke. This map shows every state that has legalized marijuana. Apr. 20, 2018.
- Legalized medical cannabis lowers opioid use, study finds. University of Georgia, School of Public and International Affairs. April 2, 2018.
- Ashley C. Bradford, BA, W. David Bradford, PhD. Association of Medical and Adult-Use Marijuana Laws With Opioid Prescribing for Medicaid Enrollees. April 2, 2018.
- Curcumin Attenuates Opioid Tolerance and Dependence by Inhibiting Ca2+/Calmodulin-Dependent Protein Kinase II Activity. Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics352(3). December 2014.
- Joseph C. Maroon, Jeffrey W. Bost. Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief. Surg Neurol Int. 2010; 1: 80.
- Timothy J Wiegand, MD, Chief Editor: Gil Z Shlamovitz, MD. Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drug (NSAID) Toxicity Workup. Dec 20, 2017.
- Erin E. Krebs, MD, MPH, Amy Gravely, MA. Effect of Opioid vs Nonopioid Medications on Pain-Related Function in Patients With Chronic Back Pain or Hip or Knee Osteoarthritis Pain. JAMA. 2018;319(9):872-882. March 6, 2018.
- S Food and Drug Administration. A Guide to Safe Use of Pain Medicine.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Opioid Overdose Crisis. 3 2018.