The opioid epidemic has been a widespread problem for the United States for many years and is not only not going away soon, but overdoses have been rising since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of local communities.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced deaths have surged during the pandemic, the latest numbers surpass yearly tolls during the height of the opioid epidemic. More than 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses over a 12-month span that ended this past September.
Dr. Sarah Trahan with the Neil Riordan Center for Regenerative Medicine in Tempe believes the effects of social isolation and job loss are contributing to the number of overdoses.
“The pandemic has caused social isolation, loss of income and jobs, and unrest for everyone whether you were affected by it directly or not,” Dr. Trahan said. “Narcotics are generally prescribed face-to-face with doctors meaning you have to come in for an evaluation and go through different screenings throughout the year and make sure you’re not abusing the medication. So, when the switch from in-person visits to telemedicine happened, it made it tougher to keep track of it all.”
With the astounding numbers of overdoses a call to find a substitute to the highly addictive prescription narcotics.
Dr. Trahan believes a plausible substitute for opioids is to use regenerative medicine to address and eliminate people’s pain instead of masking it with narcotics.
“We did a lot of peripheral joints, shoulders, hips, hands, knees, ankles and also spine injections,” Dr. Trahan said.
“For example, if someone is dealing with chronic back pain for a long time and they’ve considered surgery or are being managed with narcotics, we would instead recommend our bone marrow aspirate and concentrate procedure. During this procedure, you are awake, and we draw some bone marrow from the hip area. We concentrate that and possibly mix it with structural tissue from amnion or umbilical derived products.”
Although a procedure like that is one of the more invasive treatments the Neil Riordan Center has to offer, the center also provides less complex treatments such as platelet-rich plasma, prolotherapy, and cupping.
Unfortunately, according to Dr. Trahan, her practice is not receiving enough funding for it to take center stage quite yet.
“Funding research in regenerative medicine has to happen for people to see its efficacies, but until then, it’s also Big Pharma that needs to be open to it. We need to really put our money and our support in treating the root cause of pain along with people’s mental health,” Dr. Trahan said.
The new forms of regenerative medicine are crucial in the fight against the opioid epidemic, not just because it could stop people from misusing opioids, but it also has the power to possibly eliminate rather than mask the patient’s pain.
“This newer form of medicine is a really creative avenue of medicine to get to the root cause of pain without having to rely on opioids. It is another direction to explore before just deciding on surgery or hard medicines. The goal is to get people healthy and to stay that way,” Dr. Trahan said.