The Opioid Epidemic: National Health Emergency & Natural Alternatives

Up until the year 2017, a seriously costly crisis swept the nation, causing 115 deaths daily. According to the Centers for Disease Control in 2016, 4.6 deaths occurred every hour due to misuse and addiction of prescribed painkillers. Those pain killers included heroin, synthetic opioids, and commonly prescribed opioids. Although these over-dose related deaths involve all age groups, young adults took a hit from heroin and synthetic opioids. Much youth believed the drugs to be safe since they were medically prescribed by a doctor.

How it all began.

In the late 1990s – pharmaceutical companies confirmed to the medical community that opioid pain relievers would not be addictive. As a result, health care providers began to prescribe them at higher rates. The misuse of these painkillers was widespread before it was clear that these medications were highly addictive. Twenty-one to 29% of patients misused prescribed opioids, 4-6% who misuse opioids lead onwards to heroin, about 80% of people who were using heroin would misuse prescription opioids, and the overdoses increased in large cities by 54% in 16 states.

How are opioid medications dangerous? At higher doses, it can slow your breathing and heart rate, and lead to death. The pleasurable feelings from taking opioids are what leads to addiction.

What steps are being taken to address this crisis?

Five major priorities:

1 – Improve access to treatment and recovery services

2 – Promote use of overdose-reversing drugs

3 – Strengthen understanding of the epidemic through better public health surveillance

4 – Provide support for cutting-edge research on pain and addition

5 – Advance better practices for pain management.

Earlier this year, NIH Director announced the launch of the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, which is an effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid crisis.

Natural Pain-Relieving Alternatives

Pain is a result of stimulated nerve cells in an inflamed part of the body. Inflammation occurs when the immune system is fighting a disease, virus, or bacteria. Stopping the cause of the inflammation will, in turn, stop the pain. Are there safe alternatives to addictive painkillers? Most definitely. There is no need to worry that your pain will not be resolved. One important thing to consider is that although these alternatives can effectively aid at decreasing and managing pain,  the root cause of your pain must be ascertained. It is nature’s way of rejecting something major in the body. Not all alternatives will work for each person. It is important to be diagnosed by your healthcare provider, and then work out natural treatment options.

“Disease is an effort of nature to free the system from conditions that result from a violation of the laws of health. In case of sickness, the cause should be ascertained, wrong habits corrected. Then nature is to be assisted in her effort to expel impurities and to re-establish right conditions in the system.” -CH 90

When using herbs as a form of natural pain reliever, it is important to consult your doctor and be informed on which herbs interact negatively with other medications that you may be taking.

White Willow Bark

White willow bark contains salicin, which is similar to Bayer (used in aspirin). It is important to consult your doctor before use if you are taking Coumadin or are sensitive to aspirin. White willow bark can be taken in tea form, supplement, or herbal tincture.


Turmeric is a wonderful, fragrant and flavorful spice used in cooking. It contains curcumin, which is an antioxidant that protects and repairs the body. It is available in the form of supplements and tea.


Cloves can help relieve pain associated with headaches, toothaches, and inflammation. It can also be used topically. The pain-reliever component is called eugenol, which also used in pain rubs.

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is good for blood circulation and prevention of clots. You can make a cayenne pepper tea, and use a Zostrix ointment for topical application.


The application of hot and cold to the body through various methods and procedures will reduce inflammation and encourage balanced blood flow and healing. Ice massages are excellent to apply immediately after straining a muscle, tendon, or ligament, and with strains and sprains. There are also effective water treatments such as hot foot bath, hot half bath, fomentation, and many others.


Maximum contraction equals maximum relaxation. When my husband has a headache, sometimes as simple as pulling his temples back and releasing will bring him significant relief. Massage relaxes the muscle tissue and reduces nerve compression. Touching and applying pressure causes relaxation, and pain to release.