Opioids can be both a blessing and a curse. For some people who live with chronic pain, nothing works as well as opioids to relieve their suffering. On the other hand, the dangers of opioids are well known. These drugs are often abused and are highly addictive.
The Problem of Opioid Tolerance
One reason opioids are so problematic is that continued use leads to tolerance. That is, opioid users have to keep on increasing their dosages in order to get the same painkilling effects. The higher the dosage, the higher the risk of abuse and addiction. If there were a way to prevent tolerance, then it would be safer for patients to use opioids to control their pain.
The Risk Created by High Dosages of Opioids
In addition to increasing the risk of addiction or other forms of abuse, high dosages of opioids pose other dangers to patients, including the risk of developing potentially lethal respiratory problems. The dangers associated with opioid use are strongly tied to the size of the dose. The smaller the dose, the safer it is for patients to use opioids.
Stem Cell Therapy Provides an Answer to the Problem of Opioid Tolerance
New research offers hope. A promising study shows that stem cell therapy can prevent and even reverse opioid tolerance. The study, conducted at the Cleveland Clinic, found that treatments using stem cells had a powerful effect in preventing or reversing tolerance to opioids. The stem cell therapies were also found to be safe.
The stem cells also had a strong effect on a related problem, opioid-induced hyperalgesia, which is a condition where opioid use actually makes patients become more, rather than less, sensitive to pain. The more pain that patients experience, the more they tend to increase their opioid dose to try to deal with the pain. This causes a vicious cycle, where their opioid doses continue to rise.
Both tolerance and hyperalgesia cause patients to increase the amounts of opioids they take. The stem cell therapies studied in the Cleveland Clinic dealt with both of these problems at the same time. The treatments show great promise for enabling opioid users to be able to get the painkilling effects they need with smaller, safer doses.
Regenerative Medicine is the Wave of the Future
Using stem cells to treat the widespread problem of tolerance to opioids is an exciting new development that could improve the lives of millions of people. This is just one of many uses of stem cells that are rapidly advancing medical treatments. Many of these cutting-edge treatments are already available and in use today.
One of the leading uses of regenerative therapy, which includes stem cell therapy, is treating back and joint pain and injury. Regenerative medicine provides an outstanding alternative to surgery. It also plays a vital role as an adjunct to surgery to promote healing.
To find out more about how regenerative therapy can help people with spine and joint pain, contact the Spine Institute Northwest at (206) 496-0630.