Opioids are powerful drugs commonly used for chronic pain. They create a sense of pleasure and well-being. Opioids reduce the perception of pain by “blinding” the pain receptors. Many people who use opioids for long durations create tolerance which then requires higher doses to create the same effect. Because of this, those who relapse following intentional or situational periods of abstinence have a high risk of overdose.
In 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General addressed the opioid crisis affecting our country. A campaign called “Turn the Tide” was launched referring to opioid abuse as a “chronic illness of the brain”. The campaign suggests that it should be handled with compassion, skill, and urgency just the same as other diseases. The Surgeon General called on health care practitioners to become aware and educated on ways to treat pain safely.
Addressing chronic pain before the use and abuse of opioids is key. Occupational Therapy’s role in treating chronic pain may include:
· Creating a plan of care and setting goals specific the an individual
· Strength and exercise
· Addressing ergonomic issues that may be causing pain
· Education of proper body mechanics
· Education of self-management techniques for pain
· Energy conservation and fatigue management
· Stress management
· Assisting in getting help from support networks
Understanding the cope of opioid misuse as well as the steps Occupational Therapy can take to address this issue will help create a safe and healthier community. For more information on the “Turn the Tide” campaign visit: www.turnthetiderx.org