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Could Pain Management Devices Be the New Alternative to Opioids?

Could Pain Management Devices Be the New Alternative to Opioids?

Author: Shernide Delva

Pain management devices can drastically reduce, or eliminate, the need for opioid pain medication, according to a recent report.  Could this be the shift we’ve been looking for?

I’ll be honest.

The first time I heard about pain management devices is when I skimmed through my Facebook and saw a fundraising campaign regarding a product claiming to help women with extremely painful menstrual cramps. It was touted as “The off Switch for Menstrual Pain” and claimed to be “the new solution for instant pain relief from your period – no more pills, no more nonsense.”

When I read the description of the product, I was intrigued by the idea. I figured it was a better alternative to me taking half a bottle of ibuprofen every month. Clearly, I was not the only intrigued person. The product has fundraised over 1.7 million dollars, raising 1339% of their target goal. Wow.

But how exactly do these pain management devices work?

Looking deeper into it, it turns out that menstrual pain device is basically a fancy version of a TENS device. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. TENS machines operate by sending stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands. These pulses prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.

Every pain management device works in a slightly different way. Essentially, these pain management devices send small currents through the spinal cord where the pain is signaled.  Scientists believe these electrical currents interrupt pain signals sent to the brain. The fancy name for this is neuromodulation or neurostimulation.

These devices may work due to The Gate Control Theory.

The reality is that scientists are not completely sure how these devices work, but one theory is The Gate Control Theory. The Gate Control Theory is a theory that states that through closing the “gates” to painful input, you prevent pain sensations from traveling to the central nervous system. Large amounts of sensory information scramble the pain sensors we have and reduce our bodies ability to feel pain.

The device mentioned in the research regarding opioids is a device that is surgically implanted. While the results are promising, not everyone is comfortable with having a device surgically implanted in their body. Therefore, this solution is often seen as a last resort. This must change, according to Nagy Mekhail, a pain physician at the Cleveland Clinic.

Now, the medical community is looking to develop a device that provides the same sort of relief without the need for surgical implementation. One device developed is the Neuro-stim System Bridge which is placed behind a patient’s ear and gives off electrical pulses to certain areas of the brain.

The device has been very effective for helping people overcome the pain of opioid withdrawals, and is now used in 30 states. Patients wear the device for the first five days after they stop using opioids; the toughest part of the opioid withdrawal process.

“This could be a game changer in terms of treatment of addiction,” said Jeff Mathews, who runs the Union County Opiate Treatment Center in Indiana.

Still, not everyone is as excited.

Some are not quite convinced these devices will solve America’s chronic pain problem. Edward Michna, a pain management specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, states more research is needed to understand their long-term effectiveness.

“Have I seen patients do well on it? Yes. But I’ve also seen patients lose the relief over time,” he states.

However, despite the inconclusive research,  the potential for this to be an opioid alternative is a significant first step.

 “We need to stop thinking of pain control as just being about opioid medications,” Michael Leong, a pain specialist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told Technology Review.

More and more people are aware of the negative side effects of opioid painkillers. With that awareness comes more attention directed toward pain management devices without a risk of addiction.

 “People are afraid of opioids right now. There’s a stigma. Patients don’t want to be on opioids,” Leong said.

We will have to keep an eye out and see if more non-surgical pain management products hit the market in the near future.

Pain management is a controversial topic. People have different pain tolerances and needs. However, there is a serious need to come up with non-addictive alternatives to opioid painkillers.

We are in the middle of an opioid epidemic. There need to be other options available. If you are currently struggling with substance abuse, please call now. We want to help.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Will the New CDC Painkiller Guidelines Reduce the Risk of Addiction?

painkillerguidelines

Author: Shernide Delva

In an effort to curb what many consider to be the worst public health drug crisis in decades, the CDC has issued a series of guidelines and restrictions intended to reduce the abuse of prescription painkillers. On Tuesday, the federal government released these CDC standards, ending months and months of disagreements with pain doctors, and drug industry groups. However, many are still asking the same vital question: will these guidelines even work?

The CDC guidelines will be the first national standard for prescription painkillers. The guidelines are intended to provide a more sensible approach to prescribing highly addictive medicines. In the past, drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin were easily prescribed to patients. Although efforts have been made to reduce the amount of prescriptions prescribed in the medical community, these guidelines will further limit how opioid medications are distributed.

“This is the first time the federal government is communicating clearly to the medical community that the risks outweigh the potential benefits of these drugs,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, head of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, which supports the guidelines. “It’s one of the most significant interventions by the federal government.”

These guidelines recommend what many addiction experts have long called for which is pushing doctors to recommend other pain management options. The CDC guidelines also limit the amount of prescriptions a doctor can prescribed at one time.While these new guidelines are non-binding, they are likely to have a huge influence in the medical community.

New CDC Painkiller Prescription Guidelines

Just to give a brief overview, here are some of the main specific guidelines that will be implemented in the next coming months.

  • Doctors should first try ibuprofen and aspirin to treat pain prior to prescribing more high-risk drugs such as opioid medications.
  • Opioid treatment for short-term pain should last only three days, at the longest seven days. This will be a significant change. Currently, doctors prescribe for anywhere from two weeks to a month of opioid medications for short-term pain management.
  • Doctors should have patients undergo urine tests prior to getting prescriptions.
  • Doctors are to participate in a drug tracking system to ensure patients are not getting medicine from somewhere else. Currently, 49 states have these systems yet only 16 are required to use them.
  • These guidelines will not apply to patients receiving cancer treatment or end-of life treatment.

The new guidelines are a dramatic shift from the ideology of the 1990s. Back then, an initiative to fight for pain management resulted in opioid prescription painkillers soaring in popularity in the medical field. Pharmaceutical companies and medical experts pushed to have these drugs readily available because at the time, they were thought to be effective solutions to treat back pain and arthritis without the fear of addiction. Boy, were they wrong back then.

Now, as overdoses continue to mount, and addiction claims more and more lives each year, the country is desperate for an answer. While these guidelines may have good intentions, other professionals argue that more rules can cause more harm than good. Recent tighter restrictions on painkillers have resulted in the drugs soaring in cost on the black market. As a result, a significant number of addicts turn to heroin to satisfy cravings.

For nearly two years, these standards have been bitterly opposed by Big Pharma and pain doctors who feel that these guidelines will only post unfair hurdles for patients who really do suffer from chronic pain. They argue that drug addicts will simply find another way to get their fix, like heroin.  Opponents of the new guidelines also believe that these rules are an incursion into the role of doctors.

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the disease centers, responded,

“It’s become increasingly clear that opioids carry substantial risk but only uncertain benefits — especially compared with other treatments for chronic pain.”

He continues to support the guidelines, stating they are meant to be “a tool for doctors and for patients to chart a safer course,” describing them as a benchmark for medical practice, not an unbending dictate. The idea, he said, is to balance the risks of addiction with the needs of patients.

“For the vast majority of patients with chronic pain,” Frieden said, “the known, serious and far too often fatal risks far outweigh the transient benefits. We lose sight of the fact that the prescription opioids are just as addictive as heroin. Prescribing opioids really is a momentous decision, and I think that has been lost.”

Essentially, Frieden is saying these new guidelines are meant to help with the addiction crisis and certainly are not meant to prevent those with chronic pain from receiving medications they need. Furthermore, it is uncertain the effects opioid medications have on chronic pain in the long run, so we can not assume that restricting these drugs cause any harm to those patients.

Considering how urgent the addiction epidemic is, something has to be done, and at least these new guidelines encourage conversation. Education and prevention is the key. Each year, the data is increasingly more frightening. There clearly is not a one-stop solution to all of this. Do you think these guidelines will be effective? If your or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Opioid Alternatives: Should Doctors Weigh Other Options?

Physical therapist helping patient on exercise staircase.

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Over the last decade, the increase in opiate painkiller abuse and heroin abuse has been alarming to say the least. The 2014 statistics state that a person dies every 4 minutes from a drug overdose or alcohol-related event. Prescription pain killer abuse is an epidemic in the United States and as a result, alternatives are being considered to prevent more and more people from developing a dependency to opioids. Are there better methods of managing chronic pain?

Many believe so and are pushing for a change. While opioid medications are effective at reducing pain, they are very addictive, and other alternatives should be looked at before doctors prescribe opioid medications.

So, what options are available? Fortunately, there are a variety of options available for pain relief that range from non-opioid medications to non-medicinal therapies. Discussing these options with your doctor can help provide you with a pain management program that has a lower risk for dependency.

The Best Opiate Alternatives

  • Over-the-Counter Acetaminophen
    Acetaminophen is a drug more commonly known by the brand name Tylenol. It is recommended as a first-line of treatment by the American College of Rheumatology. While scientists are not sure on how the drug works, most theorize the drug works by inhibiting the synthesis of chemical messengers called prostaglandins, which help to transmit pain signals and induce fever. This drug is non-addictive and can be very effective.
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
    NSAIDs are more potent than acetaminophen and include anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aleve. These drugs work by reducing inflammation; however they run a risk of risk of organ toxicity, kidney or liver failure and ulcers. Use in moderation for optimum success.
  • Corticosteroids
    Steroids inhibits nerves in the body and provide pain relief. The drawbacks to steroids are that they can potentially accelerate join destruction. Other side effects can include immune system suppression, gastrointestinal issues and psychiatric effects.
  • Serotonin and Norepinephrine Re-uptake Inhibitors
    Anti-depressants may be appropriate for nerve, muscular and skeletal pain. They also help with insomnia and anxiety. This is a great alternative because these drugs do not have the same side effects of opioids.
  • Physical Therapy
    Physical therapy requires more work from the patient but can be extremely useful in improving physical healing and relieving pain long-term. Physical therapy can be done in sessions and recommended exercises can often be done at home.
  • Massage, Acupuncture and Chiropractic Care
    Acupuncture is an ancient art form that has been used for thousands of years. Some find acupuncture to be just as effective, if not more effective than medications. On the bonus side, it is a totally natural safe alternative to opioid medication.
  • Exercise
    Exercise is beneficial for so many reasons. Surprisingly, exercise has been shown to be healing for those with chronic pain. Low-impact exercises can help improve mobility and functionality. Activities like yoga and ta-chi can be helpful for many ailments.

Chronic pain affects millions. Whether we like it or not, pain is a real occurrence, and sometimes opioid medications may be the only option. However, if other alternatives and other methods of care can be promoted, it can help prevent the amount of patients suffering from dependence to these drugs. Often, taking a prescription opioid may not be the best option. As the prescription pain killer epidemic continues to gain media attention and  political awareness,more attention should be placed on prevention methods, as well as treatment.

Overall, ask your doctor to weigh the alternative options available. Together, both of you can decide the best method of pain management. What do you think? Should doctors weight other options? If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Experts: Painkillers More Harmful Than Helpful

 Experts: Painkillers More Harmful Than Helpful

By Cheryl Steinberg

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has recently issued a warning about taking powerful painkillers to treat pain conditions not associated with cancer conditions.

According to the AAN, which issued their new position statement in the September issue of the academy’s medical journal, Neurology, the risks of taking prescription painkillers far outweigh any potential benefits.

The AAN cited risks associated with the taking of powerful narcotic painkillers, which include overdose, death, and a high potential for abuse, dependence and addiction, outweigh the benefits of treating pain such as that from headaches, fibromyalgia, and chronic low back pain – essentially non-cancer conditions.

Painkillers and Non-Cancer Pain Treatment

Initially, narcotic painkillers such as oxycodone, Oxycontin, and hydrocodone were developed for the purpose of pain management in cancer patients. Due to more lax prescribing regulations for long-term use, painkillers have become more and more the go-to for treating pain that pales in comparison to that associated with cancer.

Gary Franklin, a research professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences in the University Of Washington School Of Public Health in Seattle and a fellow with the AAN said, “More than 100,000 people have died from prescription opioid use since policies changed in the late 1990s to allow much more liberal long-term use.”

Painkillers, the U.S., and Overdose Rates

Every year, U.S. doctors prescribe more than 259 million prescriptions for painkillers. As a result, Americans consume 80% of the world’s painkillers. Doctors, institutions, states, and patients need to work together to stop this “epidemic,” Franklin said.

Rates of drug overdose deaths in the United States have tripled in the past 20 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “There have been more deaths from prescription opioids in the most vulnerable young to middle-aged groups than from firearms and car accidents,” added Franklin.

Pain (Mis-)Management

Studies cited by the AAN have shown that half of patients who were taking opioid painkillers for at least three months are still taking the drugs five years later. After reviewing the available research, it’s evident that, while these medications can provide significant pain relief in the short-term, there is no considerable evidence “for maintaining this effect or improving function over long periods without serious risk of overdose, dependence, or addiction.”

The AAN suggests that doctors can prescribe opioids more safely and effectively by screening their patients for current or past drug use, depression, as well as assessing their pain and function by measuring for tolerance and effectiveness. “More research and information regarding opioid effectiveness and management is needed along with changes in state and federal laws and policy to ensure patients are safer when prescribed these drugs,” Franklin said.

In addition, the AAN recommends that doctors consult a pain management specialist if their patient’s painkiller dosage exceeds 80 to 120 milligrams per day and especially if their pain and function have not improved substantially.

Are you taking prescription painkillers for a chronic pain condition? Have you been on the medication for way too long and want to get off of it but can’t? A lot of people who become addicted to narcotics were initially prescribed them by their doctors for legitimate reasons. These drugs are so powerful, though, that they tend to do more harm than good in the long run. If you want to find out other options for treating your pain, call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist. We have helped many other people in your position to stop taking painkillers in a safe and comfortable way.

The George Brothers and the Rise of the Florida Pill Mill

9 Things Drug Companies Don’t Want You to Know

By August 25, 2011, the George twins, Chris and Jeff, had amassed $40 million in cash – and probably more (it’s believed that they were able to hide their total earnings – perhaps in Belize – before authorities finally took them down), high-end cars, mansions, oh, and the deaths of 56 people who had overdosed on the powerful painkillers that they had been in the business of doling out, hand over fist. All of this in the course of two years.

How It All Started

The Georges got the idea of going into the pain clinic business from a fellow criminal and mentor known as “the Candy Man.” Back in 2007, it was this unnamed physician who told the twins, two bad-boy rich kids that, to make a fortune, they should open a pain clinic.

“The Candy Man,” nicknamed by authorities for his large volume of pill prescriptions, is responsible for launching the brothers, 27 at the time, to the top of a pill mill empire that raked in $40 million in two years in Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to officials.

The Formula

The Wellington entrepreneurs formulated what was to become their bread-and-butter formula that also quickly inspired others to follow suit. Their pill mill blueprint that others copied would turn South Florida into ground zero of the narcotic prescription drugs black market, prosecutors said.

The Georges insisted on accepting cash and credit only in order to avoid state regulation of clinics that accept insurance. They catered to drug dealers from Kentucky and other states with high rates of painkiller abuse. Their customers could walk away with hundreds of pills a month. And they paid their doctors on staff for each patient seen as a way to motivate them; the doctors spent no more than a few minutes with each customer before writing prescriptions.

The George brothers also “kept it in the family” – hiring only friends and family when it came to staffing their pain clinics. As for the doctors? They were hired through Craig’s List ads.

Chris George was secretly recorded telling one of his managers that he had hired Jupiter physician Augusto Lizarazo, 70, despite his heavy accent and lack of experience with prescribing pain pills.

“You know what, people don’t care as long as he’s writing the scripts,” Chris George said.

Fraud Goes Deeper

Officials said that the Georges were careful to control the operation from top to bottom. For example they set up one of their steroid telemarketers in a mobile MRI business that operated behind a strip club. That aspect of the operation netted $2 million.

They expanded their business model to control how and where the prescriptions their doctors were writing. Chris George financed two of their clinic staffers to start pharmacies in Boca Raton and Orlando to disguise the volume of pills being sold. The sale of the pain pills also financed two phony time-share companies that swindled another $4.7 million from their victims.

The George Brothers: Thug Businessmen

Officials said the George brothers used violence in their business tactics.

For one thing, they threatened the operators of other pain management clinics. They also ordered their staffers to vandalize the buildings and cars of their competitors and others who opposed them.

Once, the thug twins and their aides kidnapped and handcuffed a man whom they believed had stolen $50,000 from them. The man was thrown to the ground and Jeff George fired a bullet next to his head to intimidate him.

What It Translated To

“They were swimming in money. Obscene.” said one federal official.

By the time police and federal agents shut down their four clinics in March 2010, the brothers had sold 20 million pain pills.

Each of their four clinics made up to $50,000 a day. Their employees carried the receipts to the bank in garbage bags. Their mother – who worked for and was arrested with her sons – kept about $4.5 million of their spare cash in two safes in the attic of her house.

And while desperate opiate addicts were scraping together money to buy their scripts, the George brothers enjoyed six-bedroom houses, four-figure Rolex watches, a shopping plaza, high-end boats and fast cars.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

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