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Letter to the Editor: Opioids aren’t the only answer

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Living in smaller towns like Ferndale and Lynden unfortunately doesn’t give us immunity from some big city problems. The opioid crisis is one such problem. In fact, based on national news reporting, some of the worst cases of opioid use has occurred in small east coast towns. A June 9, 2019, Seattle Times front-page headline gives us another view of the crisis—how doctors are grappling with new prescribing guidelines designed to stem the epidemic. The subtitle of the headline states the case, “Under pressure to prescribe fewer opioids, doctors struggle to ease patient’s pain, prevent overdoses and avoid risking their practices.” [editor’s note – link to story]

The Seattle Times reporters didn’t interview our local doctors, but it would be foolhardy to assume our community doctors aren’t stressed with the same issue. And although the Times’ article didn’t include substantial solutions, it’s worth noting that doctors don’t really need to struggle, they just need to look in another direction for help.

I’m one of millions who haven’t had to battle with opioid addiction. But that doesn’t mean I’m unaffected by the crisis. And I’m sure many people locally can echo my experience. My son-in-law became addicted to OxyContin 3 weeks after shoulder surgery; 3 weeks after following the dosing guidelines perfectly. When we arrived at my daughter’s house to see how he was doing after surgery, we could feel something was amiss. Our grandchildren didn’t express their normal run-for-your-arms exuberance.

My daughter’s family was lucky. Her husband kicked the addiction in a matter of weeks. Then about a year later, OxyContin again entered the scene. Their 11-year old daughter had leg surgery and went home with 100 OxyContin tablets. Fortunately, she was able to get by with a couple of days of Tylenol. I was furious. One hundred tablets for an 11-year old—who had only minor pain.

There is another direction. Families don’t need to be stressed to the breaking point. Guidance for non-addictive pain relief was published at the end of 2017 by experts representing many of the leading medical institutions in the US and Canada. The manuscript, Evidence-Based Nonpharmacologic Strategies for Comprehensive Pain Care: The Consortium Pain Task Force White Paper, provided documentation for safe natural therapies with proven effectiveness. Its lead author is Dr. Heather Tick of our own University of Washington. [editor’s note – link to whitepaper]

Here’s a sampling of the 72 distinguished medical institutions who’ve signed on to the document: University of Washington: UW Integrative Health Program, Cedars-Sinai Medical Network, Stanford University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Duke University, Yale University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, University of Alberta, and McMaster University.

These are some recommended therapies for acute pain: acupuncture therapy, massage therapy, and mind/body interventions such as music therapy. These are some recommended therapies for chronic pain: acupuncture therapy, chiropractic and osteopathic care, and massage therapy.

Doctors usually attempt to provide you with the best evidence-based treatments. That’s what evidence-based medicine (EBM) is all about. The White Paper clearly outlines the evidence and treatments involved for pain relief—without drugs. This is what your doctor is looking for.

Will the new information be used? Unfortunately, the guidance document has seen limited public exposure and based on history, it will take decades before its recommendations are incorporated into medical offices.

Let’s not follow the typical historical pathway. Insist that your doctor read the White Paper published by many of the leaders of conventional medicine. By doing so, you can be part of saving lives in your community. While you’re at it, give your doctor a list of the natural therapists you use and trust so he/she can collaborate with those therapists for addiction-free pain relief.

Gordon Heinrichs

Letters to the Editor submitted to My Ferndale News are the opinions of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher of My Ferndale News or its advertisers and supporters. My Ferndale News welcomes your letters to the editor. There is no word limit although 800 words is a good target to stay under. We do not accept anonymous letters. Submit your letters online by clicking here.

One Comment

  1. Tara Weber June 12, 2019

    Thank you for your perspective. While I appreciate what you are saying and doing this can go too far in the opposite direction. After a surgery someone with acute pain may not want Acupuncture or Massage. Everyone feels pain differently. As long as they are following a Doctor’s orders I don’t think we should tell other people how much pain relief they need. I would not want a loved one suffering in pain if a well-monitored solution was available for them.

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