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Tapering Off Opioids for Pain Relief with Dr. Gregory Smith a Green Flower Media class
Decreasing or quitting opioid medications using medical cannabis.
We're all aware by now, aren't we, that our medical profession has created a nightmare of addiction by overprescribing opioid medications? I recently took a class at Green Flower Media on using cannabis to taper down the opioid dose with the hope of getting completely away from these medications that were only meant for short-term use of around two weeks.
The US has 5% of the world's population but uses 80% of the opioid medications prescribed. There's been a four-fold increase in prescription opioid deaths since the year 2000, causing over 40 deaths a day, most as a result of a patient taking too much of the opioid medication. Research shows that opioids are ineffective for the long-term treatment of chronic pain. The epidemic is caused by prescription-writing practices of physicians stimulated by the marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies.
All of the studies done on opioids were done for two weeks, the length of time the medications are most effective. All of the research on cannabis was done using cannabis with around 25% THC and negligible CBD. The doses were 20-30 mg of THC, multiple times a day
Any negative effects presented by research were done with questionable science. The data of the effectiveness of cannabis as a healing herb overwhelmingly overshadows any parinoid percieved problems that've never really materialized.
There's no correlation between the studies done by our government and how cannabis is used in the real patient world.
The medical community created this opioid dilemma. This is a step towards repairing the damage.
It wasn't until a decade ago that the prescribing practices of physicians began changing. Previously opioids were for end-of-life conditions or for post-surgery. It wasn't until the last couple years, when they were doing studies to show that the opioids could be effective long-term that they discovered the tendency to increase pain perception, the opposite of what they were marketed to do. Long-term opioid use causes increased pain
Pain signalling can be modulated by simply using the power of your mind. After a few weeks the tissues are healing, so the cells are quieting. Pain isn't sharp and knife-like, but dull and achy. This is when opioids can begin to ramp up the pain signal.
Research has shown the severe problems inherent in current opioid use practices. Long-term use actually increases the patient's perception of pain, leading to higher and higher doses of opioids. Patients are regularly being terminated by their pain doctors for testing positive for "illicit substances," usually cannabis.
These opioid-addicted patients end up seeking street opioids to feed their cravings. The cheapest street solution, unfortunately, is heroin. Overdoses of herion add another 26 deaths a day to the climbing numbers of opioid failure.
Opioid tolerance and enhanced pain perception
Opioids are useful following surgery or trauma, and in the beginning, that was how they were used, for short-term pain relief. When used long-term you bring new concerns into the healing space. After a few months patients develop an addiction to the opioids. Their perception of pain is enhanced, so that minor pain is perceived as major pain. The patient's mind calls for more opioids. The harsh reality is that long-term opioid use leads to marked magnification of the pain response.
This is not what you envisioned when your doctor said "Take these every day and come back to see me in three months" was it?
Tolerance comes into play because over time the opioid receptors become desensitized. Now you need more opioids and more frequent dosing times to achieve the same level of relief. After a few months the patient can become so addicted to the opioid medication that discontinuing, or even delaying the taking of a dose, can result in the onset of severe withdrawal symptoms - sickness, pain, undeniable cravings for opioids
Early symptoms of opioid withdrawal
* Muscle aches (profusely, throughout the body)
* Increased tearing for no reason
* A clear, runny nose
* Sweating for unknown reasons
* Craving opioids
Later symptoms of opioid withdrawal
* Intense abdominal pain
* Dialated Pupils
* Nausea and vomiting
These sick patients crave the opioids to make the sickness go away, making it difficult for an individual to make the break from opioids on their own. If a patient stops and then restarts an opioid regimen they typically require a higher dose to begin again.
A patient who stops opioids successfully and then later starts again on that same dose can end up dead. During the time away from opioids the tolerance levels are reset. You won't need as much, so if you take that much it could be fatal.
The side effects no one likes to talk about
- Severe, intractable constipation, associated with abdominal bloating, nausea, and colic.
- Decreased testosterone in males to the point where it's common for a long-term patient to need hormonal replacement therapy.
- Depression, a common occurance with long-term use.
These side effects call for the use of other prescription medications that can further complicate the treatment of chronic pain.