Are Pain Management Devices An Alternative to Opioids?

“People are afraid of opioids right now. There’s a stigma. Patients don’t want to be on opioids,” Michael Leong, a pain specialist at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told Technology Review. Using pain relief devices can reportedly drastically reduce or eliminate a patient’s need for pain medication, particularly powerful opioids.

Terri Bryant was on fentanyl for her back pain until she took part in a clinical trial of a spinal cord stimulator that was implanted under her skin at the base of her spine. After getting the implant her pain decreased almost immediately and she was able to stop taking fentanyl, which was a relief to her.

The medical community is now looking to develop devices that provide the same sort of relief without needing to be surgically implanted. One such device, Neuro-Stim System Bridge, is placed behind a patient’s ear and gives off electrical pulses to certain areas of the brain.

The device has proved very effective for helping people overcome the pain of withdrawing from opioids and is now used in 30 states to support detox. Patients wear the bridge for the first five days after they stop taking opioids in order to get them through the toughest part of withdrawing.

Yet not everyone is convinced that pain management devices are the answer to America’s chronic pain problem. Edward Michna, a pain management specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said that we need more long-term research into their effectiveness.

The Fix

Opioid Epidemic Still a Top Priority This Summer

The announcements have come from three major government agencies, and reactions have come from a number of well-known health-related organizations.

“Drug overdose, driven largely by overdose related to the use of opioids, is now the leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States. The ongoing opioid crisis lies at the intersection of two public health challenges: reducing the burden of suffering from pain, and containing the rising toll of the harms that can arise from the use of opioid medications,” stated the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in their comprehensive report released last week.

Fewer prescriptions but more deaths

In its latest Vital Signs report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that a number of opioids prescribed in the United States peaked in 2010 and have decreased every year through 2015.

“The amount of opioids prescribed in the U.S. is still too high, with too many opioid prescriptions for too many days at too high a dosage,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the CDC in a press statement.

Read more at Healthline News

Absolution in a Judicial Case of Coca Leaf in Spain

BARCELONA – The unprecedented resolution of a court case for coca leaf imports took place yesterday at the Provincial Court of Girona. F.T., a Colombian citizen living in Spain was acquitted of charges of drug trafficking after a large display of evidence and arguments about the historical, cultural, social and medicinal value of the coca leaf.

“This result represents a victory for human rights in relation to traditional plants victims of drug policies based on ignorance,” says Dr. Constanza Sánchez, Director of Law, Policy and Human Rights Area of ICEERS Foundation.

Accused of receiving “cocaine” and “moved for the purpose of distributing cocaine among third persons,” the Prosecutor’s Office requested 4 years of imprisonment, establishing at the same time that the amount of cocaine that was intended to be obtained was 6.3 grams (note that, according to the doctrine of the Spanish Supreme Court, the threshold for possession of cocaine for personal consumption is set at 7.5 grams).

“Currently, coca leaf use in its natural state is no longer restricted to indigenous territories and populations, but is expanding because of its stimulating, nutritional and medicinal properties,” says Pien Metaal of the Drugs and Democracy Programme of the Transnational Institute (TNI).

“The consumption of coca leaf is incomparable to the consumption of cocaine. There is no scientific evidence that chewing coca leaves is harmful to health. Rather, there is increasing evidence to the contrary, for example, its effect as a stabilizer of blood glucose levels, a benefit of paramount importance with numerous medical applications, “said Dr. José Carlos Bouso, Scientific Director of ICEERS Foundation.

During this process, not only the innocence and honor of F.T. has been demonstrated, but also the historical error of the prohibition of the coca leaf and of cultural practices that surround it.

TNI