Drop those opioids: 4 alternatives to relieving pain

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Opioids refer to medications such as morphine and other forms of heavy pain relief options. They are usually hailed as lifesavers for those who are suffering from chronic pain issues or persistent pain after a procedure. While their effects might seem magical at times, the high rates of overdose and abuse for such drugs are worth attention.

The opioid epidemic, then, is increasing the number of deaths and other forms of harm brought about by the heavy use and addiction of opioids.

Some people might think that these are the only painkiller options we have. Luckily, that is not true. Some alternatives might help you break free of the opioid epidemic. 

4 alternatives to opioids

There are specific medication alternatives for pain relief that one can take instead of opioids. However, these also come with their precautions and side effects. Look at each one before deciding to go down that route. In any case, you should consult a doctor before taking any medication.


NSAIDS are traditional anti-inflammatory drugs that are non-steroidal. They are suitable for doing away with mild to average levels of pain, especially that which is the result of sprains, arthritis, strains, soft tissue injury, and pain. You can also take these in the case of severe headaches. 

This option is also good for lowering fever, reducing inflammation, and might even help opioids to work more effectively (if they are indeed unavoidable for a specific individual). You might even be able to take NSAIDS without a prescription as your first choice for dealing with pain. Many of these are available over the counter, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, and others. However, there are also some NSAIDS that you’d only get by prescription because of the side effects involved. Some examples include Voltaren, Anaprox, and Naproxen.  

For injuries to the limbs, NSAIDs are also available in the form of gels, creams, and sprays. This might be a better option for some, as the oral tablets might cause kidney damage, gut bleeding, heartburn, stomach ulcers, and increase the risk for other diseases. That is why seniors should not take NSAIDs for long-term treatments.

2. Acetaminophen

This is the active ingredient found in Tylenol. It is an OTC drug that is used for relieving pain, such as headache and backache. You might also see acetaminophen as an ingredient in flu and cold medications. While acetaminophen is not a steroid or an anti-inflammatory drug, it does help to banish fevers and eliminate some pain.  

Fortunately, this nonopioid option does not require a prescription. It is an excellent choice as a decent pain reliever. You can also layer on other painkillers (both opioid and nonopioid) on top of it. This sort of layering for pain relief is worthwhile as it requires you to have fewer strong painkillers afterward. However, it is always advisable to ask your healthcare practitioner before using it.

Unfortunately, acetaminophen might cause liver damage if you use it too frequently. This can also happen if the patient has liver disease or is a heavy drinker in the first place. 

3. Celecoxib

Celecoxib is a newer form of NSAID that is only available through a prescription. It is useful for eliminating the pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual cramps, osteoarthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. Those who are susceptible to stomach ulcers or bleeding gut will find this a better option than the traditional forms of NSAIDs.

It works by blocking cyclooxygenase (COX) – an enzyme that functions in the body to generate chemicals causing inflammation and pain. The role of celecoxib is to block COX, which in turn stops the formation of these chemicals. Here is a word of caution, though: high doses of celecoxib may lead to an increase in blood pressure. Those suffering from high blood pressure should only consume this medication if their doctor prescribes it. On the other side, there is a higher risk of strokes, heart disease, and damage to kidneys with the consumption of celecoxib.

4. Anti-epileptic drugs

Anti-epileptic drugs, including Lyrica and Neurontin, are usually prescribed for the treatment of nerve pain. People suffering from fibromyalgia, diabetes, and shingles can benefit from this medication. However, what makes this option doubtful is the fact that the functionality of anti-epileptic drugs is not too clear; some folks have no benefit from them at all. These might be helpful to others, however.

There might be some dangerous side effects if certain anti-epileptic drugs are mixed with opioid painkillers. Therefore, it is wise to consult your doctor before choosing this medication. 

Being in constant pain might tempt you to take opioid medication, but the alternatives outlined above can help to combat this unhealthy habit. If the pain is persisting, try changing your expectations and focus on these alternative medications instead of striving to feel painless. Still, these four alternatives to relieving pain should only be used after consulting your doctor.