Physicians treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may prescribe a range of condition management drug treatments including over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and/or opioids. Every medication comes with certain risks; but, prescription opioids, in particular, pose a high risk of dependency and bone fractures.
Any RA sufferer should understand and beware the risks of taking prescription opioids including Oxycodone, Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, Meperidine, and Morphine. At The Dunes East Hampton, we’ve seen how devastating addiction can be for people who suffer from RA.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic and progressive form of arthritis – an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack joints. The condition’s symptoms include swelling, warmth, and pain in joints in the extremities; limits mobility; and causes both psychological and physical difficulties.
Today, 1.5 million Americans suffer from RA, and no cure exists. The condition can affect people of all ages and lead to complications including cancer, circulatory system difficulties, and nerve problems.
Why Physicians Prescribe Opioids to RA Sufferers
Opioids including Oxycodone, Fentanyl, and Hydrocodone bind with opioids receptors in the brain to release feel-good hormones and decrease the experience of pain. The relief opioids provide may spark an immediate and rewarding conditioning cycle. When used over time, the drug inhibits the body’s natural pain response abilities and creates a physical addiction. Opioids completely change the experience of pain and provide short-term relief. Unfortunately, long-term and unsupervised consumption can quickly turn into dependency.
No patient, especially those who already struggle with a painful illness, should ever need to undergo the painful withdrawal process. Reserve opioid treatments as a last line of defense in the fight against rheumatoid arthritis and use the drug as judiciously as possible.
RA Suffers Face Additional Opioid Risks
In addition to addiction, RA sufferers must also recognize an increased risk for bone fractures. Several studies support the theory that opioid use in rheumatoid arthritis patients increases the risk of non-vertebral bone fractures.
In one study, researchers discovered older adults face an increased risk of fractures in the initial two weeks of opioid therapies. Another study published in 2016 evaluated 1,723 RA sufferers and over 8,000 controls. Roughly 722 RA sufferers and 1,873 controls took opioids at some point. The study showed a statistically significant increase in non-vertebral fractures in RA patients who took opioids at some point.
The sedating effects of opioids may contribute to fractures, or the medication’s mechanisms within the body may affect bone health in some unexplored manner in older adults. Regardless, an increased risk repeatedly appears in studies ranging from 1997 to 2016 in North America. The mitigating pain effects of opioids may not outweigh the risks of dependency and fractures.
The Opioid Epidemic in America
The opioid epidemic in America is unique. It affects people of all ages, all socioeconomic status, and all geographical regions. Since the 1990s, most physicians followed a liberal opioid prescription philosophy. It was the go-to tool for pain management across a wide range of conditions.
Ideally, a patient would taper off of the powerful drugs a few short weeks after beginning them. In practice, patients often stay on the medication long-term. A person can overcome a psychological dependency through sheer force of will, but a chemical dependency represents a different kind of beast. As patients develop physical dependencies, they often can’t stop on their own – they feel sick if they stop taking a certain dosage, but they do not feel well when taking the drug either.
Avoiding Opioid Dependency
Today, physicians and policymakers are working to reform the prescription cycle. However, patients must take the role of health advocate during health appointments. If you understand the power of opioids, the need to taper off the drug, and adhere to the plan, then opioids may offer temporary and valuable relief from a chronic condition. Do not accept opioid therapy if you know of any addictive tendencies. Many alternatives exist that may offer relief without dependency or an increased risk of bone fractures.
The Dunes East Hampton Offers Relief for Arthritis-Related Opioid Addiction
The key to arthritis management lies in proper treatment protocols. Talk to your physician about alternatives to opioids and practices for reducing the risk of addiction. For those who did take opioids and now struggle with addiction, understand that help is out there. Come to The Dunes East Hampton if you need help detoxing, finding alternatives, and recovering from an RA-related opioid addiction.