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Alternatives to Opiates

For many people, treating a chronic pain condition leads to an opiate addiction. For centuries opiates have been considered the most effective treatment for chronic pain. The standard of care in most of the world, opiates are used to manage both acute pain and chronic pain related to progressed illness, like cancer. However, due to the recent increase in opiate addiction, specifically non-medical use of prescription opiates, the standards are shifting.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1999. However, there has been no overall change in the amount of pain reported by Americans. This increase in the availability and use of the drugs is part of an overall pattern of increased recreational use.

If you are facing an addiction to prescription opiates, you may be afraid to seek treatment because you are concerned about having to deal, once again, with crippling chronic pain. If you can’t use opiates anymore, how can you manage your pain?

You don’t need to use this fear as a way to justify putting off treatment. There are a number of opiate alternatives that you will learn about during treatment and through your doctor. Your pain can be managed without triggering your opiate addiction.

Don’t let fear stand in the way of your opiate addiction treatment. SubstanceAbuse.org can help. By calling 800-487-1890 (Who Answers?) , you can get questions answered, find funding information, and be directed to a treatment program that meets your needs.



Physical therapy has proven to be beneficial for many pain patients.

It’s important to note that selecting the proper medication or alternative will be a decision you need to make with a medical professional. The clinicians at your rehabilitation treatment program will give you input, based on medical factors. You should also get feedback from your general practitioner, who will need to provide prescriptions if the replacement that is best proves to be another form of medication.

Considerations that will be taken into account, include how safe it is, how tolerable it is, how quickly it takes effect, how easy it is to schedule doses, and how consistently doses can be administered. Your overall medical health will also be a major consideration.


Acetaminophen is available over the counter and most people are familiar with it because it is the active ingredient in Tylenol. One of the most commonly used pain relievers, acetaminophen is often recommended by medical professionals as a first-line treatment. It would not be uncommon to be given acetaminophen in rehab.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are also available over the counter in low dosages, although higher dosages require a prescription. More powerful than acetaminophen, NSAIDs consist of anti-inflammatory drugs, like naproxen (which you know from Aleve), and ibuprofen. If you are older, NSAIDs may have a higher risk of complication and your rehab professionals should be able to discuss this in more detail with you.

Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors

Another first line treatment, serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are often prescribed for nerve pain, like muscular and skeletal pain. They are anti-depressants that impede both serotonin and norepinephrine and often help people with insomnia and fibromyalgia pain.


Because the inhibit injured nerves, steroids, like prednisone, can ease pain. There can be a lot of side effects to steroids and you definitely need to have a lot of medical oversight when taking them.

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Topical medications

For localized pain in one area, topical creams, like lidocaine and capsicin can be used as a one-off or as part of a larger, regular pain-management routine.


Although these drugs are prescribed to treat epilepsy, they also suppress pain signals from the brain and that soothes nerve pain. In addition, they tend not to cause side effects, and the ones they may cause are mild.

Massage and Other Alternative Therapies

These are treatments you can use in addition to medical pain relievers. Acupuncture, acupressure, spinal manipulation, and other treatments are excellent because they are safe, effective, and free of side-effects. These can be especially beneficial when more traditional methods have not been successful. They are definitely better than no treatment and may work better than medication for many people. Ask your drug treatment program about these methods and they can help you explore them.

Exercise and Physical Therapy

There are numerous studies that demonstrate gentle exercise improves functionality and flexibility in people who suffer from chronic pain. Many treatment programs also use these methods to help recovering addicts deal with withdrawal pain, fight cravings, resist triggers.

To find a treatment program that can help you find an alternative to opiate pain relief and help you with your recovery, call 800-487-1890 (Who Answers?) today.

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Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: Rehab Media Group, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.

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