(NaturalNews) Nearly half of all Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients, primarily seniors, take opioid pain relievers, according to new data. And researchers say this number is steadily rising, which begs the question -- is your elderly loved one a victim of the opioid drug racket?
There are many reasons why elderly folks end up addicted to opioid drugs, not the least of which is chronic pain and depression. But experts say the more than 40 percent of SSDI recipients who are chronic opioid users don't understand the risks involved, nor are they being told that these harsh drugs could cause long-term side effects.
The statistics are "worrisome," says Dr. Nancy Elizabeth Morden and her colleagues from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, New Hampshire, because "established and growing evidence [show] that intense opioid use to treat non-malignant [non-cancer] pain may not be effective and may confer important risk."
Many elderly opioid addicts taking 13 medications or more annually
Opioids have become a type of catch-all drug for treating pain, anxiety and even boredom -- many seniors are mostly sedentary, which leads to more health problems -- and the data show that doctors are prescribing opioid medications at an alarmingly high rate. A study published in the journal Medical Care found that most chronic opioid users are taking upwards of 13 different medications a year.
"Opioid use of this intensity has been associated with risk of overdose death in the general US population and more specifically in disabled workers," added Dr. Morder and her colleagues.
Exercise, diet, cannabis and other natural alternatives to opioid use
The vast majority of those considered to be chronic opioid users suffer from some kind of musculoskeletal disorder, typically back pain. And while it might seem like taking it easy is the best approach to dealing with it, physical exercise can make a huge difference in relieving back pain and improving quality of life.
"General guidelines are to build up to 20 to 30 minutes at least three times a week if at all possible," suggests Care.com. The site offers other ways for elderly parents to engage in exercise therapy:
join a gym, where he or she can participate in fitness classes, many of which are tailored for seniors
work out with a trainer
exercise along with friends
purchase an exercise or dance CD, and then exercise at home along with it
take up activities such as gardening, vacuuming, walking or dancing, all of which could be considered exercise.
Other non-drug interventions include osteopathic manipulative treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy and spiritual interventions such as joining a local church, meditating or practicing yoga. A holistic, interdisciplinary approach that incorporates multiple interventions is often most effective, as each individual will respond differently to treatment.
Diet is also important, as conditions that involve chronic pain or depression often have their root in nutrient deficiency or chemical imbalance. Avoiding inflammatory foods that contain refined sugar, food coloring and preservatives is important for balancing the nervous system, for instance. At the same time, it is important to consume plenty of anti-inflammatory foods, including those rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
The Life Extension Foundation (LEF) has some helpful dietary tips for reducing inflammation, a common trigger of chronic pain, that you can access here: LEF.org.
As for day-to-day pain relief for serious conditions, medical cannabis is another powerful option. A superior alternative to opioids, medical marijuana is safe, effective and free of harmful side effects. Many seniors have experienced comprehensive relief from multiple ailments by using cannabis, freeing them of their opioid addiction and offering them a fresh take on life.
"In most cases, the use of standard analgesic medications such as opiates and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) is ineffective at relieving neuropathic pain," explains the marijuana reform group NORML.
"Survey data indicates that the use of cannabis is common in chronic pain populations and several recent FDA-designed clinical trials indicate that inhaled marijuana can significantly alleviate neuropathic pain."