If you’ve lived with fibromyalgia for a while, you know how devastating the pain can be. Not only can it get extremely severe to the point that it feels like the muscles are being pulled off of your bones, but even when it’s not really bad, the pain is constant. It feels like it never stops hurting. No wonder so many people turn to opioid painkillers.
Far too often, heavy doses of opioids seem to be the only thing that is actually effective for relieving fibromyalgia pain. But are these kinds of opioid painkillers really a good solution to the problem of fibromyalgia pain? And perhaps more importantly, is there any alternative?
How Do Opioids Work?
Opioids are a class of drug that, as you probably guessed based on the name, are derived from opium. And as you probably also already knew, opium is a very powerful substance. That’s because it is so effective at what it does, which is suppressing the activity of the central nervous system.
Your nervous system consists of networks of nerves sending signals to each other at very high speeds. Opioid drugs work by getting between those connections and attaching to cells on the nerves called opioid receptors. This prevents the nerves from receiving pain signals, which is what makes opioids such effective painkillers.
But they also target other areas of the brain, such as the brainstem, which regulates the heart and lungs. And that makes them very, very dangerous.
The Problem With Painkillers
The fact that opioid painkillers suppress the parts of your brain that keep your heart beating and you lungs breathing means that taking too much can produce a fatal overdose very easily. And the thin line between a therapeutic dose and a fatal one is so thin that these overdoses occur very frequently.
In fact, prescription opioids are the number one cause of all overdose fatalities. No other drug causes more deaths.
And the number of people overdosing is increasing every day. Since the late 1990’s the number of people overdosing on prescription opiods has quadrupled. And since that time almost 200,000 people have died as a result of abusing opioids. Yet the death toll continues to rise.
Part of the problem is that not only are these drugs deadly themselves, but they lead to serious physical and psychological dependence. The euphoria produced by opiates and the painful withdrawal symptoms make it difficult for people to stop taking them. Thus, when people hooked on opioids are no longer able to get them from their doctor, they turn to street alternatives like heroin.
This, in turn, makes the opioid crisis much worse since the unregulated drugs available on the street make can often turn out to be cut with more powerful opioids like fentanyl. So someone uses the dose they normally would only to die because it’s a lot stronger than they were expecting.
Is There Any Other Choice?
Unfortunately, when it comes to fibromyalgia, sufferers are caught between two very bad alternatives. There’s the very real threat of falling into opioid abuse from using prescription painkillers on one hand and on the other the fact that very little else seems to help their fibromyalgia.
Now, there are a number of drugs and treatments that people sometimes find help relieve their fibromyalgia pain. These include natural supplements like capsaicin or d-ribose. And then there are other medical options like anti-depressants and even marijuana.
Unfortunately, not everyone finds significant relief in these options. And opioids are the most commonly prescribed painkillers for a reason: they work. That power to suppress the nervous system that makes them dangerous also makes them one of the few effective medications for treating chronic pain.
So if you’re suffering from fibromyalgia pain, much of the time your options are to either risk taking opioids or to try less effective methods of pain control and just sort of grit their teeth and bear it.
And with all of those warnings about opioids, the fact remains that most people with prescriptions for opioids use them responsibly. So painkillers can absolutely be an effective way to treat fibromyalgia, as long as you remember to use them responsibly and be aware of the risk. Addiction can affect anyone and also has set in long before the addict is able to recognize that they have a problem.
So tell us, do you use opioids for fibromyalgia pain? Does it work for you? Do you worry about the consequences of the opioid epidemic and what do you think should be done? Tell us in the comments.