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Chasing the Dragon – America’s Struggle With Opioid Addiction

By Dr. Mercola

If you or someone you know is hooked on prescription drugs such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, or street drugs like heroin, you’ll connect with “Chasing the Dragon,” a raw 2016 documentary about the horrors of drug addiction.

Produced by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the film features ordinary Americans sharing personal stories of danger and destruction that characterized their lives prior to recovery from hard-core drug addiction.

Because the documentary is filled with harsh language and disturbing images, parental discretion is advised.

In 2015, 52,404 Americans died from drug overdoses; 33,091 of them involved an opioid and nearly one third of them, 15,281, were by prescription.,, Meanwhile, kidney disease, listed as the 9th leading cause of death on the CDC’s top 10 list, killed 48,146.

The CDC does not include drug overdoses on this list, but if you did, drug overdoses (63 percent of which are opioids), would replace kidney disease as the 9th leading cause of death as of 2015.

Many of those featured in “Chasing the Dragon” are regular people from good homes and loving families. The one characteristic they had in common while using was a feeling of powerlessness to escape the spiraling cycle of drug use and abuse that dominated every moment of their lives.

One recovering addict, a woman named Melissa, had this to say about her drug use: “It became my full-time job. The needle was my boss — a very demanding boss.”

To prevent you or someone you love from becoming addicted to prescription painkillers, I’d like to take a closer look at opioid abuse and offer several healthy alternatives to help you manage pain.

How Bad Is Prescription Drug Abuse in the US?

A 2015 study suggested 1 in 4 Americans who use opioid painkillers become addicted to them. Despite the drugs’ high risk of addiction, a 2016 NPR health poll indicated less than one-third of people said they questioned or refused their doctor’s prescription for opioids.

Dr. Leana Wen, emergency physician and health commissioner for the city of Baltimore, recommends you discuss with your doctor any concerns you may have about receiving a prescription for narcotics.

Due to their highly addictive potential, it’s important, she says, to ensure such drugs are your best and only option:

“Ask why. Often other alternatives, like not [taking] anything at all, taking an ibuprofen or Tylenol, physical therapy or something else can be effective. Asking ‘why’ is something every patient and provider should do.”

Wen’s concerns are well placed. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on opioids in 2014.

On average, more than 1,000 of them land in emergency rooms every day as the result of abuse or misuse of prescription painkillers.

“There’s very little difference between oxycodone, morphine and heroin,” says Dr. Deeni Bassam, board-certified anesthesiologist, pain specialist and medical director of the Virginia-based Spine Care Center. “It’s just that one comes in a prescription bottle and another one comes in a plastic bag.”

Bassam, whose views on drug addiction are presented throughout “Chasing the Dragon,” believes most drug dependency starts innocuously:10

“A friend offers you something at a party or at home. Or you’re having a bad day, and you need something to pick you up, so somebody hands you a pill and says, ‘Here, this will help you feel better.’ That’s how this problem always starts.”

Deborah Taylor, senior vice president and executive director of Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic, a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation organization operating in 10 U.S. states, notes:11

“The progression of addiction and the behavior that comes with it is pretty standard regardless of where you’re born, how much money you have, how old you are and your race or nationality.

You can be the smartest person in the world — and the minute that chemical hits your bloodstream, you lose control of what it does in your body. You can’t control it. Nobody can control it. I don’t care who you are. It’s not controllable.”

From Prescription Opioids to Street Drugs

The transition from prescription opioids to street drugs like heroin is a relatively easy one. When a prescription runs out, the cost to renew it becomes unmanageable or a physician refuses to renew a prescription, many addicts look for other options.

Heroin, which is often cheaper and easier to obtain than opioids, is a popular alternative. Chemically, the drugs are very similar and provide a similar kind of high. Without additives, heroin is as dangerous as Oxycontin and equally addictive. However, when dealers cut heroin with other drugs, the results can be deadly.

According to the Chicago Tribune,12 in just six days during August 2016, a staggering 174 heroin overdoses took place in Cincinnati, Ohio, a city that records, on average, 20 to 25 overdoses a week.

The Tribune13 claims the unprecedented number of overdoses was precipitated by heroin cut with carfentanil, a drug originally developed as a tranquilizer for large animals such as elephants. Cut into heroin, it was meant to deliver a stronger and more extended high, which would presumably keep users coming back to buy more.

Instead, it resulted in a string of overdoses and deaths that left law enforcement begging local citizens to not buy heroin until the ultra-potent batch was off the streets. Their advice made sense considering carfentanil is 10,000 to 100,000 times stronger than morphine.

About the overdoses, Newtown police chief Tom Synan, who is also leader of the law enforcement task force for the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, said:14

“[Dealers] are intentionally putting in drugs they know can kill someone. The benefit for them is if the user survives it is such a powerful high for them, they tend to come back …

If one or two people die, they could care less. They know the supply is so big right now that if you lose some customers, in their eyes there’s always more in line.”

Treating Your Pain Without Drugs

Prior to leaving office in January 2017, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Dr. Robert Califf addressed the devastating effects of opioid misuse, suggesting it’s time to find better ways to treat pain:15

“The public-health crisis of opioid misuse, addiction and overdose is one of the most challenging issues [the FDA] has faced during my time as commissioner. Solving this issue is critical to our future.

It’s time to put more resources into the development of non-opioid, non-addictive medications to help people who are in serious, debilitating pain. We need more research to define the most effective non-medication approaches to pain, and how to deliver them …”

Califf is right; we do need better ways to manage pain. Fortunately, many natural alternatives already exist. While not everyone who takes a prescription opioid will wind up an addict, the risk is real. For that reason, I strongly recommend exhausting the many natural alternatives before you resort to an opioid pain reliever. The health risks associated with those drugs are great, and addiction and overdose happen far more often than you may realize.

It’s particularly important for you to avoid opioids when trying to address long-term chronic pain, as your body will create a tolerance to the drug. Over time, you’ll require greater doses at more frequent intervals to achieve the same pain relief. This is a recipe for disaster and could have lethal consequences. Please don’t risk it!

Due to the many concerns around addiction and tolerance, opioids clearly have not lived up to the promises manufacturers have made. With so much focus on pharmaceutical remedies, you may not be aware of the many healthy alternatives to pain relief. Following is information about non-drug remedies, dietary changes and bodywork interventions that can help you manage your pain.

Non-Drug Remedies for Pain Relief

If you have chronic pain of any kind, please understand there are many natural, safe and effective alternatives to prescription and over-the-counter painkillers, including:

Dietary Changes to Fight Inflammation and Manage Your Pain

Unfortunately, physicians often fall short when attempting to effectively treat chronic pain, resorting to the only treatment they know: prescription drugs. While these drugs may bring some temporary relief, they will do nothing to resolve the underlying causes of your pain. If you suffer from chronic pain, making the following changes to your diet may bring you some relief.

Bodywork Methods That Reduce Pain

Due to the inherent risks of addiction and the other unpleasant side effects of prescription painkillers, I recommend you pursue one or more of the following bodywork methods before taking a narcotic for pain. Each one has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for lasting pain relief and management.

Acupuncture: According to The New York Times,18 an estimated 3 million American adults receive acupuncture annually, most often for the treatment of chronic pain. A study19 published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded acupuncture has a definite effect in reducing four types of chronic pain, including back and neck pain, chronic headache, osteoarthritis and shoulder pain — more so than standard pain treatment. The researchers stated:

[W]e found acupuncture to be superior to both no-acupuncture control and sham acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain … Our results from individual patient data meta-analyses of nearly 18,000 patients in high-quality randomized controlled trials provide the most robust evidence to date that acupuncture is a reasonable referral option for patients with chronic pain.”

Chiropractic adjustments: While previously used most often to treat back pain, chiropractic treatment addresses many other problems — including asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, headaches, migraines, musculoskeletal pain, neck pain and whiplash.

According to a study20 published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, patients with neck pain who used a chiropractor and/or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain-free in 12 weeks compared to those who took medication.

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT): EFT continues to be one of the easiest and most effective ways to deal with acute and chronic pain. The technique is simple and can be applied in mere minutes, helping you to overcome all kinds of bodily aches and pains. A study21 published in Energy Psychology examined the levels of pain in a group of 50 people attending a three-day EFT workshop, and found their pain dropped by 43 percent during the workshop.

Six weeks later, their pain levels were reported to be 42 percent lower than before the workshop. As a result of applying EFT, participants felt they had an improved sense of control and ability to cope with their chronic pain. In the video featured below, EFT expert Julie Schiffman, teaches you how to use EFT to address chronic pain.

Massage: Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation, relieve pain and reduce levels of stress chemicals such as cortisol and noradrenaline. A systematic review and meta-analysis22 published in the journal Pain Medicine, included 60 high-quality and seven low-quality studies that looked into the use of massage for various types of pain, including bone and muscle, fibromyalgia, headache and spinal-cord pain.

The study revealed massage therapy relieves pain better than getting no treatment at all. When compared to other pain treatments like acupuncture and physical therapy, massage therapy still proved beneficial and had few side effects. In addition to relieving pain, massage therapy also improved anxiety and health-related quality of life.

Final Thoughts About ‘Chasing the Dragon’

With respect to “Chasing the Dragon,” U.S. FBI director James Comey said:23

“This film may be difficult to watch, but we hope it educates our students and young adults about the tragic consequences that come with abusing these drugs, and it will cause people to think twice before becoming its next victim.”

Every generation has its drug of choice, and Bassam suggests this generation’s drug of choice is prescription opiates, which is far more devastating and addictive than anything law enforcement and the medical community have seen in the past. The current level of drug addiction in the U.S. is real and dangerous, says Bassam:24

“How do you know you’re an addict? It’s when you’re doing something you know is not good for you, that’s harming you, but you can’t help yourself. When your relationships are starting to fall apart around you, and you don’t care. When the only thing on your mind is how to get the substance and how to get to the next high — you’re an addict. You can’t maintain an opiate addiction and a normal life for very long.”

If someone you know is at risk for or is presently struggling with drug addiction, this raw and realistic documentary is worth your time.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/04/15/documentary-chasing-the-dragon-opioid-addiction.aspx

On – 15 Apr, 2017 By Dr. Mercola

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