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LMU 55 – Battling the Prescription Opioid Epidemic: A Call for Conservative Care

The Prescription Opioid Drug Epidemic and Consequences

LMU 55 – Battling the Prescription Opioid Epidemic: A Call for Conservative Care

Source: ON Chiropractic: Spring 2017

Lifestyle Medicine Update (June 14, 2017)


The scourge of prescription opioid misuse and its devastating consequences have infiltrated modern society, prompting the need for a reassessment of pain management strategies. Dr. Jane Ballantyne, a distinguished physician and professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at the University of Washington, spearheaded a comprehensive review paper in 2017 that delves into the prescription opioid drug epidemic. As the unsettling statistics paint a grim picture of opioid-related deaths, the urgency to shift paradigms in pain control becomes palpable.

Prescription Opioids: A Double-Edged Sword

Dr. Ballantyne’s groundbreaking research study navigates through the labyrinth of prescription opioids, unravelling the crisis that has unfolded since the late 1990s. A pivotal juncture marks this era as medical practitioners were granted broader leeway to prescribe opioid drugs to manage pain, transcending their original realm of cancer pain treatment. The consequences of this paradigm shift reverberate across society, with Canada alone witnessing a harrowing toll of 2,000 deaths annually attributed to prescription opioid drug misuse. The heart of the issue traces back to the rapid surge in opioid prescriptions, soaring fourfold since 1999, culminating in a corresponding surge in drug-related fatalities.

Lethal Lure of Opioid Ingestion

A haunting reality surfaces as the research scrutinizes opioid-related deaths. Predominantly accidental rather than suicidal, these fatalities arise from the insidious development of tolerance to opioids. Seeking to replicate the desired pain control or euphoric effects, individuals escalate their dosage. However, the sinister culmination of high opioid doses entails the suppression of the breathing centers in the nervous system, plunging the patient into unconsciousness and eventual demise. The alarming statistics underscore the urgency for intervention, particularly concerning individuals aged 25-34, where nearly 1 in 8 deaths is linked to opioids. A distressing revelation further indicates that long-term opioid therapy inevitably ushers in physical dependency, ensnaring patients in an arduous struggle to reduce or cease opioid consumption.

A Hollow Promise: Opioids and Chronic Pain

The unsettling revelations compound as research probes the efficacy of opioids in mitigating chronic low back pain. Surprisingly, a systematic review spanning multiple studies in 2016 unearthed a rather modest short-term relief attributed to opioids. The grim irony underscores the inherent limitations in opioids’ ability to effectively alleviate pain, despite their widespread prescription. Alarmingly, the study sheds light on the perilous path of opioid addiction, with approximately 10% of prescription recipients succumbing to its clutches. An even more disconcerting statistic reveals that over 24% of those prescribed opioids veer into misuse territory. The intersection of addiction, dependency, and mortality underscores the gravity of the situation.

A Paradigm Shift: Non-Pharmacologic Conservative Care

Driven by the mounting evidence of opioid-related crises, the 2016 Center for Disease Control Guidelines has emerged as a clarion call for change. The guidelines underline the urgency of embracing non-pharmacologic, conservative care for non-cancer musculoskeletal pain. This transformation signifies a pivotal shift away from opioids in favor of alternative treatments that sidestep the perils of addiction. Behavior modifications, coupled with non-addictive painkillers, become the cornerstone of a novel pain management paradigm.

The Promise of Conservative Care: A Multidimensional Approach

Embracing this paradigm shift necessitates an exploration of alternative therapies that circumvent the pitfalls of opioid dependency. For individuals grappling with low back pain, arthritis, and myriad musculoskeletal conditions, the expertise of physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists beckons. These practitioners, equipped with state-of-the-art technologies such as spinal decompression therapy and shock wave therapy, offer a beacon of hope. The incorporation of natural anti-inflammatories and herbal-based supplements, notably the California poppy extract, emerges as an appealing avenue to thwart pain and inflammation without compromising well-being.

Towards a Brighter Future: Embracing Change

Dr. Ballantyne’s research study casts a ray of hope amidst the opioid crisis, signalling the dawn of transformation. With a clarion call for change, the study underscores the power of non-pharmacologic, conservative care as a potent alternative. The tide of change, borne out of necessity, sweeps across the landscape of pain management, offering a chance for redemption from the clutches of opioid-related afflictions.

Conclusion: Paving the Path to Rehabilitation

As the tendrils of opioid dependency tighten their grip on society, the clarion call for transformation reverberates. Dr. Jane Ballantyne’s research study ushers in a seismic shift, advocating for non-pharmacologic, conservative care as the cornerstone of a new pain management paradigm. The journey toward rehabilitation and liberation from the opioid crisis commences, painting a path towards a brighter future free from the shackles of addiction.


  1. Ballantyne J. Opioids: Patients deserve better. ON Chiropractic (publication of the Ontario Chiropractic Association) Features Story: Spring 2017:18-27

Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. Meschino

Dr. James Meschino


Dr. James Meschino, DC, MS, ROHP, is an educator, author, and researcher having lectured to thousands of healthcare professionals across North America. He holds a Master’s Degree in Science with specialties in human nutrition and biology and is recognized as an expert in the field of nutrition, anti-aging, fitness, and wellness as well as the author of numerous books.

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