Chronic pain is one of the most prevalent health issues in the United States, and it is among the most frequent reasons for seeking medical attention.

It is estimated that approximately 20% of the population suffers from chronic pain. Opioids are the most commonly prescribed medication for chronic pain patients. As such, chronic pain is closely connected to opioid use and the ongoing opiate crisis.

Relying on opiate-based pharmacological interventions to make it through the day, those suffering from chronic pain often find themselves addicted. Many patients become addicted while taking their medications as prescribed while still many others become addicted and begin to abuse their prescriptions. This opioid use and abuse leads to the development of addiction disorders, and also contributes to the growing number of deaths by overdose. 2018 data show that approximately 128 people died every day due to opiate overdoses. These statistics have left clinicians and policymakers struggling to find safe solutions for those suffering.

Why opioids are dangerous for long-term use?

Opioids work by triggering the release of endorphins, which are the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. These endorphins calm the perception of pain and boost feelings of pleasure. When opioids are taken repeatedly over time, the body slows its production of endorphins. Eventually, the same dose of opioids stops triggering the good feelings and a tolerance is developed. This drives physicians to prescribe higher doses—or patients to take more medication than prescribed—and, eventually, become addicted. High dosages can lead to some serious side effects including breathing problems, a slower heart rate, confusion, mental disturbances, and death.

Chronic pain, mental health and opioid prescriptions

Adults who suffer from mental illness receive 50% of all the opioid prescriptions annually. This is an alarming statistic, as taking a more conservative approach to pain management is appropriate for this population. Patients with mental health disorders are vulnerable to abuse, addiction, and overdose…but, yet, studies have found that these individuals are more likely to receive long-term opioids at higher daily doses.

Ketamine as an alternative

As chronic pain and opioid usage remain hot topics, ketamine is quickly being recognized as a safe, non-addictive alternative or supplement for chronic pain relief. Ketamine acts differently than opioids to stop pain and provide quick, powerful relief. Ketamine can also help patients reduce their dosage of opioids, or even improve the efficacy of pain management medications for certain chronic therapy patients.

At Vitalitas Denver, we can offer both psychiatric care and ketamine infusions, addressing the integrative needs of our patients. Not every chronic pain sufferer is a candidate for ketamine infusions, nor is every clinically depressed person. Our team assesses the physical and mental symptoms of each patient, working with the entire care team to develop a personalized care plan.

If you or a loved one suffers from chronic pain or a debilitating psychiatric disorder, please contact us to learn more about how ketamine infusions could help.