Can We Support Our Way Through the Opioid Problem?

Group support of addicts in the meeting.

The United States is in the midst of a pretty terrible health crisis, and it’s not what most people might think of when they think of a “health crisis.” In the morass of cancers, smoking, obesity, diabetes, ALS, Autism, and all of the other 21st-century health problems that are highly relevant, there is yet another health issue that is potentially more dangerous than all of the above health problems. This is the opioid addiction crisis, an official, CDC-declared epidemic.

The Grim Details of the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic is not only the single most dangerous health issue in the nation, it is one of the top concerns of all issues and difficulties that our country faces at this time. This problem transcends issues of health and, in fact, ranks on the top list of concerning issues nationwide. The United States makes up only about five percent of the world’s population, yet our residents consume almost eighty percent of the entire country’s supply of opioid pain relievers. Saying the U.S. is over-medicated is a bit of an understatement.

The opioid condition and our reliance on opioid painkillers is something to be concerned about because opioids are far from safe or “okay.” Whether they come in the form of opioid pain relievers, heroin, or “synthetic” opioids (hybrid opioid drugs that are man-made combinations of stand-alone opioids), all opioids carry a fair degree of addiction risk. Such substances can send someone into a tailspin of addiction and dependence, in spite of the user's best efforts to avoid such a habit from developing.

Word “lethal” made from pills.

And opioids are lethal too. They create lethal addictions. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than one-hundred and fifteen Americans die from opioid overdoses every single day, all across the U.S. This is a lethal addiction epidemic that affects the United States on social, economic, and public health levels, all in tandem. The CDC estimates that more than sixty-five thousand Americans died from opioids last year, and the problem easily cost the nation over seventy billion dollars.

Top-Level Experts Speak Out on the Opioid Problem

The opioid epidemic is now a serious enough of a problem that it has captured the attention of top-level experts in multiple fields. Teams of specialists, researchers, doctors, and educators alike all across the U.S. are trying to get a handle on this problem.

According to Dr. Leana Wen, the Baltimore City's health commissioner:

“When we look at the data of where it is that people are dying of overdoses, where the rates of addiction have climbed most precipitously, those areas are also the ones that are hardest hit by unemployment, by housing instability, by individuals in communities with uncertain futures. This is an overall societal problem that we need to address.”

Another expert on addiction, Jamison Monroe Jr. spoke on the intricacies of the opioid problem, highlighting how complex the issue is and how it is unlikely that we will arrive at a resolution to it unless we completely revolutionize the way we approach medication in this country. Medication is not always a bad thing, but it is not always a good thing either. According to Monroe:

“The problem is our society's unwillingness to deal with pain. I'm talking about emotional pain. People use substances to self-medicate their issues…”

The problem is our society's unwillingness to deal with pain. I'm talking about emotional pain. People use substances to self-medicate their issues, and those can be depression, anxiety, trauma emotional pain, a whole myriad of things can be at the core of why people abuse drugs. Substance abuse doesn't exist in a vacuum. There are always other factors at play.

Clearly, the opioid problem has hundreds if not thousands of top-scale professionals in multiple industries quite concerned. As we move forward into the next several years, our focus has to be not only on helping those who are addicted but also on completely revolutionizing the way our nation approaches pain relief.

Workable Alternatives to Pain Relievers

Some medications are certainly necessary. Some are even, in fact, life-saving. But Americans err when they begin to use medications that are highly risky, which are addictive, which pose potential problems that outweigh the solutions they might bring, and which are more or less dangerous. Not all medicines are created equal, and perhaps the most concerning and dangerous medicines of them all are opioid pain relievers. These are the medicines that Americans should be most concerned about.

Given the voracity of the opioid epidemic, it is highly advised that pain patients take every effort possible to avoid taking opioid painkillers. What most patients don’t know and what most patients aren’t briefed on by their doctors, is that painkillers are not the only route to reducing pain. There are many ways to alleviate pain in the human body. Opioid pain relievers are only one route, the route that happens to be most heavily advertised by both the medical industry and the pharmaceutical industry alike.

Chiropractitioner handling pain.
Massage Therapy

There are a plethora of safer, natural, holistic, and non-addictive alternatives to pain relief that we all need to get informed on. While these pain relief solutions are not as potent as high-strength opioid painkillers are, the truth is that the majority of Americans who struggle with pain do not need such high-strength pain relievers. In fact, the majority of Americans who are put on painkillers are prescribed these drugs for back pain, jaw/teeth pain, and headaches. Yet, when one reads the fine print on the labels for such high strength, opioid painkillers, one finds that these drugs are not even intended to treat such types of pain! From a physiological and biological perspective, back pain, neck pain, headaches, jaw pain, toothaches, these are all pain problems that should be treated with non-opioid, over-the-counter pain relievers at the most.

The following alternative pain remedies can safely reduce the vast majority of pain symptoms that American patients experience:

  • Valerian Root
  • Ginger
  • Magnesium
  • Turmeric
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Capsaicin
  • Willow Bark
  • Cat’s Claw

Those are all relatively common and relatively affordable natural supplements that can be purchased at most health food stores. And these are just a brief glimpse at some of the supplements that can help reduce pain. There is an entire plethora of lifestyle changes and day to day habits that people can adopt which will usually result in less pain. Some of these lifestyle changes are:

  • Massage Therapy
  • Chiropractic Care
  • Acupuncture
  • Proper Diet
  • Regular Exercise
  • Yoga
  • Relaxation Techniques

Here too, the above is just a glimpse at some of the things that people can do to reduce pain phenomena. Between vitamins and supplements and actual lifestyle changes, the vast majority of Americans who are taking painkillers could walk away from those drugs and pursue a much safer, addiction-free path to pain relief.

The risk of the opioid epidemic is now so prominent that it is a crisis that affects more American families than those who are untouched by it. Over ten million Americans are hooked on some form of opioid, so this is absolutely something to be concerned about. Reversing the epidemic starts with rehabilitating those who are addicted, but it also starts with having the entire nation make a change in how we address pain.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.