Curbing the Opioid Epidemic with Chiropractic Care

Curbing the Opioid Epidemic with Chiropractic Care

Many people are in pain, and when people are in pain, they often turn to prescription (and maybe even non-prescription) pain relievers. A commonly prescribed choice for pain relief is opioids because they are powerful and effective; however, they also carry a high risk for addiction and overdose. For years, the statistics of opioid overuse, and even death, have been at the level of an “epidemic,” which, by definition, is a widespread occurrence in a community at a particular time. As such, medical practitioners are seeking new approaches, and fortunately, there’s a healthy, effective, and safe one: chiropractic treatment.

Opioids: A Dangerous Addiction

The widespread use (and abuse) of opioids has been compounded by many things, including depression, anxiety, and pain and even children being prescribed the drugs. Often even normal, prescribed use of these medications can lead to addiction and overdose. According to, “Benzodiazepines [opioids commonly prescribed for young adults and adolescents] are safe when prescribed by a doctor and used for short periods of time, such as the day of surgery or for less than two weeks to aid sleep.”

However, when these drugs are taken at higher-than-recommended doses, or for longer than necessary, the risks emotional and physical dependency increase. As tolerance builds and the prescribed dose no longer works, patients may think they must increase the dose or frequency to compensate. On the contrary, opioids only should be taken at the lowest dose for the shortest possible length of time.

Dr. Rick Gross of Quality Care Chiropractic says, “Drug addiction is a dangerous, slippery slope that many people keep silent about. It can start with normal back pain that does not go away. Someone takes pain relievers appropriately, as prescribed, but suddenly they get caught off guard and end up addicted.”

Commonly, the desire to ease pain often outweighs the logic of what is known to be best. And, once an addiction has started, it isn’t easy to stop. Not only is it difficult to stop when the drugs keep the pain away, it simply can be a challenge (for both the drug taker and their loved ones) about how to bring up the topic of addiction with family and friends.

Serious Statistics

Even though the prescribing of opioids in the U.S. actually has decreased 38% in the past decade (more than half of the states have legislated to limit quantity and duration of opioid prescriptions for acute pain), opioid deaths have paradoxically increased by 300% in the same period. According to, in 2018, opioids were the No. 1 cause of death for Americans under 50, so calling it an epidemic isn’t just smoke and mirrors. reports that from March 2020 to March 2021, 96,779 drug overdose deaths were reported nationwide—an increase of 36.1% from December 2018 to December 2019 and an increase of 29.6% since 2020. In Chicago alone, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic saw opioid overdose deaths double in the first five months compared to 2019 (from 416 to 924). Nationwide, in 2021, opioids made up 67.8% of all drug overdose-related deaths. In fact, more than four times as many people died from drug overdose than from homicide in early 2021.

Something Needs to Be Done

Although some legislation has made strides toward reducing or eliminating opioid prescribing, that doesn’t mean use is lessening. Some overuse and abuse cases are in a population of those uninformed or misinformed about the serious addiction tendencies, but many others are people who only need opioids for a short time for their pain yet their prescriptions have more doses than necessary. These remnants often are abused, sometimes by the one to whom they were prescribed but sometimes by others in their household with access to the forgotten prescriptions.

Clearly, established approaches to opioid management are not working. Medical doctors recognize that opioid prescriptions need to be reduced significantly, and “new approaches are needed.” Chiropractic is the “new approach” that will help.

Chiropractic Treatment Works

“Chiropractic care is safe, non-addictive, and effective and can be used for children, elderly, pregnant women, athletes (who may undergo drug testing), and people who want to avoid medications for various other reasons,” explains Dr. Gross. “Chiropractic treatment is very powerful in relieving pain, especially for conditions people would try to treat with opioids.”

Time and time again, studies are proving that chiropractic care is a better choice than medication since it is low risk, effective, and safe for people of all ages.

  • One systematic review showed that chiropractic-adjustment recipients had 64% less likelihood of needing opioid prescriptions than non-recipients.
  • Other findings concur that receiving chiropractic therapy for newly diagnosed radicular low back pain (rLBP) results in reduced odds of needing a benzodiazepine prescription during follow-up.
  • A study of 9,206 patients with rLBP and radiating leg pain found that those getting chiropractic adjustments were significantly less likely to need opioid prescriptions, even after 3-, 6-, and 12-month follow-ups.
  • Another 40,929-person study by pharmacists and physical therapists found that chiropractic care (and not physical therapy) “disrupted the need for opioids and, in particular, long-term opioid use” in patients with low back pain.

The evidence is compelling that spinal manipulation by chiropractors can dampen the opioid epidemic by minimizing the need to use drugs for conditions like low back pain. Since 2017, the American College of Physicians has recommended spinal manipulation as a non-pharmacological first-line treatment. Despite the progress made, opioid use and abuse is still at large and causing addictions and deaths.

When it comes down to it, says Dr. Gross, “It’s better to start with chiropractic care, since you don’t know if you are going to be that person who gets caught off guard and slips down into addiction.”

For advice on how to recommend chiropractic care to someone who is taking a lot of pain killers or to learn more about chiropractic treatment yourself, contact Quality Care Chiropractic at (630) 499-2225.

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    I have found that being a doctor is so rewarding because every single day I see miracles happen in front of my very eyes. If I stick to basic principles, I notice the best results. I focus on effective, research-based therapies. I recommend only the therapies I believe my patients need, and only for as many treatments as I believe they need. I keep up with current research and educational seminars to improve techniques and treatments. I treat each person in my office like I would treat my own family – with respect, compassion, and understanding. When conflicts or problems arise, I expect honest, open communication to resolve any issues, and I promise to do my best to ensure satisfaction. I never take for granted the trust I have earned from my patients.