Aspirus | Aspire | Winter 2019 13 Sylvia Dennison, MD OPIOID addiction has been declared a public health emergency in this country. Many people who are addicted to opioids developed a dependency after initially taking them only for pain relief. To make matters worse, research shows that when taken over an extended period of time, opioids are not that effective in relieving pain. In fact, the medications that are supposed to be helping with our discomfort can actually make it worse. This phenomenon is called opioid- induced hyperalgesia. “For years, it was thought that when people experienced decreased effectiveness of their opioid medications it was because they were developing a tolerance, so dosages often would be increased,” said Sylvia Dennison, MD, addiction psychiatrist at Aspirus Antigo Clinic. “What happens is that opioids actually dull our overall senses Alternative options If you have chronic pain, talk to your health care provider about the risks and benefits of opioids. A referral to a pain specialist may be an appropriate option. Other treatment options can include: ▸ ▸ Exercise. ▸ ▸ Physical therapy. ▸ ▸ Non-opioidmedications. If you need help finding a provider, go online to or call the Aspirus Customer Contact Center at 800.847.4707 . When your painmedication causes you pain over time. When they wear off or lose effectiveness, the pain that we experience can feel more intense or actually move around to different parts of our bodies.” Differentkindsofpain Opioid medications remain very effective for managing short-term pain, like after an injury or surgery. In these situations, opioids aid in the healing process. Research shows that long-term pain, however, does not respond well to opioids. “Long-term use of opioids changes how the brain, nerves and other parts of the body affect each other,” Dr. Dennison said. “This can cause chronic pain in just one or a few areas to evolve into a much bigger problem that spreads to different parts of the body. Pain that starts out with a dull and aching or shooting and stabbing quality magnifies, and the sufferer becomes more sensitive to sensations like heat and cold.” These changes to our bodies contribute to the dangers of long-term use of opioid medications—even when they’re taken only as prescribed. When used in high doses, even small changes in a person’s medications, medical conditions or alcohol consumption can result in overdose or death. If you or someone you love has been taking opioid medication for more than a week or two, talk to a medical professional about getting off these meds and receiving safer, more effective care for your pain issues.