Effects of PT on Opioid Addiction

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Effects of PT on Opioid Addiction

 Definition of Opioid Addiction

Opioid Addiction occurs when a person becomes reliant or dependent on an opiate substance; normally seen in the form of painkillers. [1] People can become addicted to opioids whether the drugs were prescribed to them or not. In this case, they are using a drug just to get high. While others, are prescribed drugs for the pain and get addicted to the way the substance makes their pain seemingly disappear.

  • Recreational Use: “is the use of a drug (legal, controlled, or illegal) with the primary intention to alter the state of consciousness (through alteration of the central nervous system) to create positive emotions and feelings.”[2]
  • Pain Management: “Doctors most often prescribe opioids to relieve pain from toothaches and dental procedures, injuries, surgeries, and chronic conditions. . . Opioids usually are safe when they are used correctly, but people who misuse opioids can become addicted. Misusing opioids means that you don’t follow your doctor’s instructions for how to take the medicine, or you take the drug illegally.”[3]
  • Examples of Opioids: “Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, morphine, codeine, methadone, etc.” [4]


  • “A total of 33,091 Americans died from the opioid overdose in 2015, and 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.”[5]
  • “Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015.”[6]
  • “People often share their unused pain relievers, unaware of the dangers of nonmedical opioid use. Most adolescents who misuse prescription pain relievers are given them for free by a friend or relative.”[7]
  • “In 2010, there were just 1.4 incidences of opioid use disorder among every 1000 members. By 2016, that rate had climbed to 8.3 incidences for every 1000 members.” [8]

Can Physical Therapy be helpful in the treatment and prevention of opioid addiction?


Many doctors prescribe opioids to patients, to relieve their pain. But the effects of the drugs only last so long, before the patient needs another dose. While at home, the patients are fully in control of how they take their pain medications. Some may read the directions and give themselves the correct dosage, yet others, become reliant on the effects of the medicine and take more than the suggested amount.

There are many ways to keep addiction to opioids from occurring, and in turn, many ways to treat those dealing with addiction. Usually, professionals recommend that the patient(s) undergo drug therapy, attend rehab, and try other therapeutic ways of changing their habits. Although these types of therapies are the norm, a lot of them still use medicine in their regimen. For example, some therapies use narcotics and sedatives to wean the patient from their addiction. Although the different forms of therapy may be helpful to some, others may not change because they are still being presented drugs.

An alternative that is being considered as a helpful tool for the prevention and treatment of opioid addiction, is physical therapy. Physical Therapy is a tool that does not require any medication and helps to strengthen patients, physically and mentally. Drugs may only mask the pain of patients, while physical therapy helps to teach patients, how to work through their pain, and specializes in things like dry needling, that may help relieve their pain and soreness.

A major issue that underlies the treatment of opioid addiction, is the fact that the treatment plans still incorporate medicine. Researchers from the University of Pittsburg performed a study which suggested that patients should take a rehabilitative approach to treating their pain. When studying patient records, the researchers found that only eleven percent of patients received physical therapy and/or rehabilitation as their form of treatment. Although a number of people is small, the researchers could conclude that these people were “less likely to use opioids, surgery, or nonsurgical invasive procedures,” (Salvador). [9]

To help decrease a number of people who die from opioid overdose each year, the health professional should consider a few things. First, that early intervention, when patients, are experiencing pain, is very necessary. The sooner a patient can be referred to a treatment center, the less likely it is that he or she will overdose. Another thing professionals should consider, is that treating their patients with medicine while trying to treat addiction seems counterproductive. Why give a patient, who is addicted to painkillers, more strong medicine? And finally, Physical Therapy should be one of the first options suggested by medical professionals, when dealing with patients, because it can help to prevent and treat opioid addiction.

[1] http://www.thegooddrugsguide.com/addiction-types/drug-addiction/opiate.htm

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recreational_drug_use

[3] https://familydoctor.org/condition/opioid-addiction/

[4] https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/prescription-pain-medications-opioids

[5] http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/08/health/opioids-overdose-deaths-epidemic-explainer/index.html

[6] https://www.asam.org/docs/default-source/advocacy/opioid-addiction-disease-facts-figures.pdf



[8] http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/29/health/opioid-addiction-rates-increase-500/index.html

[9] https://apple.news/AIGrThnAVOaiVP2eSqAf2Pw


By Kaila Jordan | Summer Internship | July 5th, 2017

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