Treating Neuropathic Pain With Prescription Opioids

neuropathic-painWhile prescription opioids are highly addictive and have led to an epidemic in the United States, there is no question prescription opioids are great for treating pain. When people go to a hospital with a minor injury they might receive Tylenol 3 (codeine) or Vicodin (hydrocodone), if a patient is in need of surgery they are given something a lot stronger, such as morphine or fentanyl. People who are living with chronic pain are often prescribed monthly supplies of opioids and are at a heightened risk of developing a dependency to the drugs which can lead to addiction.

The treatment of chronic pain over the last 15 years played a large part in creating the opioid epidemic that we face today. This is a fact which suggests that physicians need to adopt different prescribing practices, and look to alternative forms of pain management treatment. Opioids have long been the go-to treatment for all forms of pain, but it turns out that treating certain types of pain with opioids may counter health improvements.

The Nerve of Prescribing Opioids

The American Chronic Pain Association states that neuropathic pain often involves nerve fiber damage which sends the wrong signals to other pain centers. Neuropathic pain can be difficult to live with, diminishing one’s quality of life. So it is not all that surprising those doctors will prescribe opioids for neuropathic pain. However, new research suggests that patients prescribed opioids for neuropathic pain experienced no improvements in physical functioning, compared to patients treated with alternative therapies, Medical Daily reports. The research was published in the journal Pain Medicine.

“Opioids can help people with severe pain be more comfortable, but if they are not also facilitating improved function, the impact of these medications on quality of life should be questioned,” said Geoff Bostick, lead author of the study.

Researchers analyzed data from 789 patients, some of the participants were using opioids to treat the neuropathic pain. The participants provided self-reported baseline measures of function before the study, and then again after six and twelve months of treatment, according to the article. The patients using opioids for neuropathic pain saw no improvements in physical functioning, compared to patients using other therapies.

Hindering Improvement

If using prescription opioids during the healing process does not improve physical function, it begs the question of whether or not they should always be used. Bostick points out that improving movement and function may be more important than pain relief. If we consider all the risks of using opioids, it is hard not to agree with him.

New Bills to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

opioidThe United States has been in the grips of prescription opioid crisis of epidemic proportions for over a decade. While state and federal governments have worked hard to address the problem which claims thousands of lives every year, there is no question that more can be done – especially now that heroin has sunk its hooks into addicts who struggle to get their hands on prescription narcotics.

The eastern states have been hit especially hard by prescription drug abuse, and the subsequent rise in heroin use. As a result, politicians from both parties in Massachusetts and Kentucky have come together to advance a number of bills to combat the crisis facing America, MassLive reports. The new legislative measures address:

  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)
  • Opioid Overdoses
  • FDA Accountability
  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)

Protect Our Infants Act

NAS is a condition which can occur when newborns are exposed to opioids in utero. Babies born with the condition exhibit signs of withdrawal and require extra attention and extended stays in the hospital. The Protect Our Infants Act was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass. and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., according to the article.

Under the bill, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would be required to conduct research and coordinate efforts, helping state agencies collect data on NAS.

Opioid Overdose Reduction Act

Over the last few years, first responders have been granted greater access to the opioid overdose antidote drug naloxone. If administered in a timely manner, the drug has the power to reverse the life threatening effects of opioid overdoses. In some states and municipalities, addicts and their loved ones can acquire naloxone without a prescription.

The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act was brought forward by U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass. and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., the article reports. If passed, the bill would protect doctors, first responders, and others trained to administer naloxone from civil liability.

“No one should be afraid to save a life because of a lawsuit,” U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass. said in a statement.

FDA Accountability for Public Safety Act

In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the pure-hydrocodone drug Zohydro, despite an advisory panel voting against the approval. A number of lawmakers and experts in the field of addiction were outraged by the approval, believing the drug was counter public safety. The FDA Accountability for Public Safety Act seeks to limit the FDA’s ability to approve opioid drugs against the recommendations of experts on advisory committees, according to the article.

National All-Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) Reauthorization

In the fight against doctor shopping, PDMPs have proven vital for informing doctors when patients are receiving opioids from other physicians. However, many state programs, including Massachusetts, have been operating without funding. With bipartisan support, a bill has been put forward to reauthorize NASPER. If passed, it would provide states with the crucial funding needed to maintain, improve, and expand PDMPs.

This program “will empower states and advocates on the front lines of this crisis to build successful (prescription drug monitoring programs) that can communicate across state lines and help identify at-risk behavior—a key first step in fending off addiction before it starts,” said Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass.


If you are struggling with prescription opioids or heroin abuse, please do not hesitate to contact Next Step Intervention. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help show you how to live a life free of opioid addiction.

Prescription Drug Take-Back Movement

prescription-opioidsThe Epidemic

The prescription opioid epidemic in the United States has led to a rise in addiction and premature deaths resulting from opioid overdoses. After years of over prescribing, these highly addictive narcotics have flooded American communities, crippling individuals and devastating families.


Nationwide efforts have been made to combat this deadly crisis, such as prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), the closing of “pill mills,” and the creation of prescription drug take-back programs. Collectively these methods have proven effective; PDMPs have diminished the ability to doctor shop – the act of going to multiple doctors for the same type of drugs. Prescription take-back programs have made it more difficult for these types of drugs to fall into the wrong hands.

Curbing the problem comes at a cost. Individual states are spending millions of dollars on programs such as these. Three years ago, Alameda County, CA, created an ordinance requiring big pharma to offset the costs of prescription drug take-back programs. The county prevailed, but the pharmaceutical companies were not going to lose without a fight.

The Fear

The pharmaceutical industry feared, and they were right in doing so, that other parts of the country would follow the Alameda County initiative. After two previous attempts to get the ordinance overturned, the U.S. Supreme Court denied an industry request to review the lawsuit over the Alameda County prescription drug take-back program ordinance, The New York Times reports.

Three industry trade groups claimed the ordinance was unconstitutional. They believed that the law violates interstate commerce and discriminates against out-of-state companies through the shifting costs to drug makers.

Joining the Fight

Since the Alameda County ordinance passed, others have followed suit. Two more counties in California and one in Washington have adopted similar laws, according to the article. Scott Cassel, chief executive at the Product Stewardship Institute non-profit which supports take-back programs, found that at least a dozen other local governments around the country are considering similar ordinances.

“I think we’ll see a groundswell of both local and state governments,” says Cassel.

Facing Addiction Head On

Efforts which force the hand of pharmaceutical companies to share some of the burden of an epidemic they helped to create is a step in the right direction. However, simply making it more difficult for addicts to get their hands on prescription opioids is not enough. Many addicts will turn to the cheaper, stronger alternative – heroin.

Creating greater access to substance use disorder treatment facilities is of the utmost priority. Educating the public about the nature of prescription drug abuse, and the options available for recovering from addiction, will go a long way in the fight against this insidious issue.


Recovery is difficult process, but one that is well worth it. There are a number of different avenues to take on the road to recovery. At Next Step Intervention, we provide a variety of treatment options to choose from if you are looking for a new way of life – one free from addiction. If you are struggling with prescription opioids or any other mind altering substance, please do not hesitate to reach out for help.

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