Can Stem Cells Reduce the Opioid Epidemic?
For many years, Michael has been struggling with back pain. It was limiting his ability to work and more importantly preventing him from enjoying time with his family. Unfortunately, in spite of trying different pain relieving measures like physical therapy, spinal injections and chiropractic care, he continued to suffer from back pain. Finally he was prescribed hydrocodone- a powerful opioid. Although this opioid pain medication helped him initially, its efficacy decreased with time and the doses had to be escalated to provide relief from his back pain. Finally, even though he was on 60mg/d, there was no respite to his back pain. To give you some perspective, this opioid dose is equivalent to taking 12 regular Vicodins a day.
Because of the tightening state medical board regulations, his family doctor was no longer comfortable prescribing opioids. He was referred to a pain management clinic. That was when I met him. I told him a few facts about opioids and chronic pain.
- There is no evidence that opioids help in chronic pain.
- The higher the dose of opioid, the higher the risk of addiction.
- The longer he is on the opioid, the higher is the risk of addiction.
- Prescription opioids have the same effects on the brain as Heroin.
When I told him that I would gradually taper him down to lower opioid doses, he agreed. But he asked me, “What about my pain, doc?”. His pain was from degenerated discs and facet joint arthritis which was seen on the MRI of his lower back. Since traditional medical care had failed to provide pain relief for his back pain, and surgery was not an option, I offered him the Stem Cell transplant. He was excited that stem cells could eliminate opioids. He had the stem cell procedure done, and 6 wks later, he is almost pain free. He is finally enjoying quality time with his family. Now, he wants to be tapered off his opioids which he has been taking for 6 years.
Can Stem Cells replace opioids in every patient? Obviously not. But stem cells possibly can in many…
Can Stem Cells reduce the opioid epidemic? It could possibly be one of the strategies…