Urgent Need to Increase Use of Non-Drug Healthcare Recognized

Michele Maiers, DC, MPH, PhD, Executive Director of Research and Innovation | September 26, 2017

The public health impact of the opioid abuse epidemic continues to astound. The White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis issued initial recommendations to address the opioid abuse problem.

While the public health impact of the opioid abuse epidemic is well recognized, its impact continues to astound. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that opioid drugs are not only killing 142 Americans each day, but are shortening the overall lifespan of US citizens. Drug overdoses reduce the life expectancy of an American born in 2015 by 3.5 months, compared to someone born 15 years earlier. Opioids specifically account for 2.5 of those months.

The White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis recently issued an initial report of recommendations to address the opioid abuse problem, and include: 

  • Increasing the capacity of treatment facilities for substance abuse
  • Mandating prescriber education initiatives in appropriate pain management
  • Enhancing data sharing among state-based prescription drug monitoring programs
  • Enforcing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, to ensure health plans cannot impose less favorable benefits for those with mental health or substance use diagnoses

Of interest to complementary and integrative health care providers, it also suggests the need for a more thorough examination of the benefit of alternative pain management strategies. This presents an important opportunity for advocating the role of chiropractic, acupuncture, massage and other treatments as effective, safe, non-drug therapies to treat pain.

Just this week, more than three dozen states’ Attorney Generals did exactly that in a letter submitted to the President and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans. They asked that plans review payment and coverage policies to ensure they prioritize non-opioid pain management options over opioid prescriptions for chronic, non-cancer pain. Pointedly, they state that opioids provide “no substantial [evidence for] maintenance of pain relief or improved function over long periods of time”, and that if taken for longer than three months, are “ineffective and can be life-threatening”. Specifically, the letter advocates the use of physical therapy, acupuncture, massage and chiropractic care. 

Finally, the newest Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic study reports that 8 in 10 Americans prefer to use drug-free alternatives to pain management, before taking prescription painkillers. The nation’s focus on opioid abuse has finally seemed shift the dialogue toward drug-free pain treatment, and is appropriately pointing toward complementary and integrative care therapies as part of the solution. We find ourselves with a window of unprecedented opportunity to partner with others, and solve one of the most pressing healthcare crises in a generation. Join your local, state, and national professional and public health associations in bringing our voice to the conversation.

Source: The Northwestern Health Advocate, Michele Maiers, DC, MPH, PhD, Executive Director of Research and Innovation. You can reach Dr. Maiers at 952-888-4777 ext. 158.

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