For a dose of reality on the impact of opioid abuse, consider this: In the U.S., illicit and prescription drug overdoses now kill more people than cars or guns, and more than HIV/AIDS did at its peak. From 1998 to 2015, overdoses rose more than 500 percent. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 91 Americans die daily from an opioid overdose, totaling more than 33,000 people per year.
To combat the epidemic, government organizations and researchers are discussing strategies to provide relief to the 100 million Americans with chronic pain.
“In May 2016, the CDC issued new guidelines for prescribing opioids, urging physicians to consider other treatments to help patients get relief and reduce the number of people who develop an opioid dependence,” said Dr. Mark Wallace, chair of the division of Pain Medicine in the Department of Anesthesiology, University of California San Diego.
Fortunately, alternative treatment options exist that can help people manage their chronic pain. While not well known, spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is an FDA-approved option that has been proven safe and effective.
The nerves in the spinal cord are constantly communicating with the brain, and in patients with chronic pain, those signals trigger pain that can be physically and emotionally debilitating. SCS therapy works by interrupting that pain signal reaching the brain. It is a medical device that is implanted and is reversible unlike most surgical procedures. Patients undergo a trial period allowing them to evaluate it before deciding to receive a permanent implant.
In a recent study published in the journal “Pain Medicine,” 86 percent of patients who underwent a trial with the Precision Spectra SCS System, a device made by Boston Scientific, reported a significant reduction in their pain and opted to receive an implant. When asked about their pain levels two years later, approximately 70 percent of the patients in the Lumina Study reported equal to or more than 50 percent reduction in their overall pain.
Since its introduction more than 40 years ago, SCS technology has evolved, allowing for precise targeting and personalized treatment, which helps physicians better address the needs of their patients.
People struggling from chronic pain should consider talking to a pain management specialist about SCS and visit ControlYourPain.com for more information. According to Wallace, key questions to ask include:
• Should I consider SCS?
• How can SCS treat my pain?
• What is the procedure like?
“We all need to do our part to reduce the negative impact of opioid abuse. One key step is for patients and physicians to initiate conversations about other ways we can manage pain to help them return to their normal lives,” said Wallace.