Should you use Painkillers for Fibromyalgia?

painkillers

Image: Wikimedia commons

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.

Comments

comments

Comments 3

Anja says:
I take Hydrocodone with fairly effective pain relief. I also take Neurontin, and Requip for my Fibro in addition I take Cymbalta, Ativan and Lamotrigine for my clinical depression, anxiety and mood disorder. As a RN, I completely understand the concern with the potential harm from narcotic use. I’m only prescribed one 5/325 Hydrocodone twice per day due to MDs belief, as mentioned by someone earlier, that narcotics are not effective in treating Fibro pain. (Let’s also not forget the extreme scrutiny they are under by the bigwigs when prescribing narcs long term) I’m sure the majority of us know this to be untrue. The way narcotics work in the brain is proof enough that they will be effective. I see my Neurologist tomorrow and am going to respectfully request to have more available to me, especially for the most severe days. In closing I would like to just say that the last 2.5 years with this “syndrome” has negatively impacted my life in every single aspect. I grieve for my past funloving, bubbly, social and strong self. I grieve the relationships with my loved ones which have changed drastically and I grieve the lost, or at the very least, postponed, dreams and aspirations I had for myself. I pray to someday find a way to live a productive and happy life again.
FIBROMYALGIA WARRIORS, we must be. And in this nightmare, support and goodwill between those of us fighting this fight is imperative. Stay strong and stay true to yourself. You and only you are your own best advocate! We can not and must not give in to this monster!
Peace and love to all who may be reading this! ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡
Cindy Holman says:
I have been treating my Fibro with pain meds. I started with Hydrocodone…now am taking Tramadol. The Tramadol doesn’t seem to be doing as good a job as the Hydrocodone. But we
will see how it goes. But yes, they do help. I have not tried medical marijuana. And don’t plan to.
estellastar says:
As we all know, the pain of fibromyalgia is relentless, and although the consensus in the medical profession is that opiods do not work for FMS, in reality, us, the sufferers, know they help enormously. I use low potency opiods, and have tried oxycodone, but it is too strong for me. I certainly would not cope without regular opiods pain relief. The truth is, in the UK, we have very few options for FMS, and the pain that goes with it. In many states in the US medical marijuana is legal, and readily prescribed, but over here it will probably be 10-15 years before the government wake up to the potential of well-regulated medical marijuana. Even though research shows time and time again that it is safe and effective for chronic pain, the government still treats it as an illegal recreational drug, which leads to heroin abuse. This viewpoint is both illogical and cruel for the many people who have to turn to synthetic opiates for pain relief. These drugs can be dangerous, whereas you literally cannot overdose on cannabis. It all makes very little sense when alcohol is legal, and totally socially acceptable, and cigarettes kill ruthlessly. I started with FMS just over a year ago, and already I cannot imagine how people deal with this condition for endless years. I am not some young hippy, I am a midwife and mother of five children, and have an analytical mind, and have done a great deal of research on this topic. We need the option of properly prescribed cannabis for chronic pain conditions, and for that we need some forward-thinking, non-prejudiced people in government to deliver this, something I really doubt will happen anytime soon.