The opioid crisis is heart-breaking. The 19-year-old son of a colleague of mine died in his sleep, at home in his own bed from an accidental overdose a year ago. The family is still shattered and likely will be for years. I have a daughter the same age, it could just as easily have been me who lost her child. I feel for all the families whose loved ones have died or are struggling. am also a naturopathic physician and believe that we are missing a few pieces to the puzzle of addiction and recovery that could provide tremendous help and could be addressed quite easily:
1) The use of opioid painkillers for acute and chronic pain management could be greatly reduced if not eliminated by refocusing pain management on non-addictive methods of treatment, including homeopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic. The use of Arnica and Hypericum as homeopathic remedies given in a specific protocol after surgeries and many injuries for example would have the potential to drastically lower or even eliminate the need for most conventional pain medication. Opioid medication after a back injury was what addicted Ms. McBain's son as described above. Very likely a combination of homeopathy and acupuncture for the acute pain followed by chiropractic could have prevented his addiction and death. Physicians need to be educated to either start integrating those methods into their clinical practice or to collaborate with other trained health care providers such as naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists and chiropractors in an open and respectful manner.
Homeopathy can be extremely impressive for post-surgical pain management. I myself underwent a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction due to breast cancer in 2010 and only needed 2 Tylenols at the end of the first day. No other pain killers were given although the nurses frequently asked if I wanted morphine. My pain was managed perfectly with homeopathic remedies and relaxation tapes. My daughter had three wisdom teeth removed last year, one impacted, and did not require one single painkiller, it was managed with homeopathy. To those calling this anecdotal evidence - there is a long history of clinical use of Arnica, Hypericum and other homeopathic remedies for acute pain management and a small body of good, published research as well, showing effectiveness. Most studies are not done by homeopaths unfortunately and don't use the right potency of the remedy and correct frequency of dosing, otherwise results would be much better. I'm happy to teach anyone interested how to dose correctly to prevent or reduce the use of post-injury and post-surgical pain. Chronic pain can also be effectively managed with naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, hypnosis and related methods.
2) Supervised injection sites for obvious reasons.
3) Physiological support for withdrawal symptoms at the supervised injection sites and all treatment centres. Opioid agonists are an obvious helpful choice but don't address the neurological damage done by the drugs and are therefore really only a stop-gap measure. Intravenous amino acids and other nutrients have been used with success in several treatment centres in the US and Mexico, as well as in a number of clinical studies. IV nutrients help to deliver amino acids needed to create more neurotransmitters, especially dopamine, directly to the brain, bypassing often damaged digestive systems. In studies this has greatly shortened the duration and intensity of withdrawal symptoms from a multitude of addictions, including alcohol, cocain and heroin. Ms. McBain's son could not shake off this physical withdrawal symptoms, this approach might have helped him.
4) In addition users should be supplied with high quality nutritional supplements, including high-dose multi-vitamins and minerals, additional chromium to help address blood sugar imbalances, lithium orotate and vitamin D to stabilize mood and Vitex agnus castus capsules to reset dopamine receptors. Clients should also be counselled on the benefits of high-protein, high-fat, low-sugar diets and provided with food vouchers to buy such foods.
I believe that using such an integrated strategy could greatly help to alleviate the addiction crisis by preventing a large part of it in the first place and by helping to heal the addicted brain.
Dr. Anke Zimmermann, ND, FCAH