Why are doctors abandoning opioids and what are they prescribing instead?

Why are doctors abandoning opioids and what are they prescribing instead?

A representative image of medications. Unsplash/File

More and more doctors in the United States are avoiding prescribing opioids to their patients for pain relief, citing the addiction crisis and resulting overdose deaths. The trend has been received well by their peers, but patients, always seeking opioid-like euphoric relief, may not be happy with the switch.

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers that are legally available by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, and many others .

Opioids work by blocking the pain sensation in the brain. They can also affect the pleasure center of the brain, causing a sense of euphoria. When taken as directed, opioids can be very effective in relieving pain.

By some figures, more than 932,000 people have died from drug overdoses, with numbers rising every year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that opioids are involved in about eight out of 10 overdose deaths.

Despite all this, what do the doctors suggest then? The answer is muscle relaxants. It is because they are less addictive and less risky to human health.

Jesse Bracamonte, a physician at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Phoenix, Arizona, said, “Opioids are greatly reduced and muscle relaxants are often recommended as a safer alternative, provided they are not abused and used as directed.”

However, there are concerns that it may not work well with some associated risks.

Muscle relaxants

Muscle relaxants or also known as muscle relaxants are used to treat muscle aches and spasms.

Trevor Rich, a physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mondovi, Wisconsin, noted, “Muscle relaxers belong to a fairly broad range of medications intended to provide patients with relief from muscle spasms or muscle spasticity.”

Functions of muscle relaxants

Muscle relaxants are typically taken by mouth, “to relieve pain, spasm and stiffness of skeletal muscles by depressing the central nervous system,” said Christopher Gharibo, director of pain management at NYU Langone Health.

“They work in different parts of the central nervous system by altering the neurotransmitters responsible for communicating impulses to skeletal muscles,” he noted.

“Certain muscle relaxants may also be helpful in certain headache or even neurological pain conditions,” added Gharibo.

According to Rich, there have been “well-designed systematic reviews of these prescriptions” dating back more than two decades, and that research has “provided high-quality evidence demonstrating that these drugs are more effective than placebo for short-term relief.” muscle spasms, especially low back pain.”

However, Bracamonte stressed that the drugs don’t work for everyone, and some people report only limited relief.

“I often prescribe muscle relaxants for my patients to use alongside other treatment options, including surface remedies, to maximize their combined effectiveness,” she stressed.

Side effects of muscle relaxants

Extreme sleepiness in some people is a known side effect of it.

For this reason, Rich said, doctors often warn patients not to drive or operate machinery during therapeutic dosing.

People also become habitual of it causing some people to have poor concentration, dry mouth, increased liver enzymes, low blood pressure and interactions with other medications, according to doctors.

Adam Tenforde, director of running medicine for Mass General Brigham in Boston, noted, “Muscle relaxers should be used with caution.”

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