Earlier this year, U.S. researchers from Stanford and a few other major institutions put together a comprehensive report on the opioid abuse epidemic.
The report made some valid points for how to control the crisis. Such as prohibiting donations to political organizations by pharmaceutical companies and holding health professionals accountable for overprescribing.
However, I was shocked to see that it left one KEY solution that could SOLVE the crisis completely.
I’ll tell you all about it in just a moment. But first, let’s take a step back to examine the history of this devastating crisis…
Thirty years in the making
According to the new report, the opioid crisis began in earnest in the late 1990s, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved OxyContin® for patients with moderate-to-severe pain.
Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, contended that their new drug was less addictive than other opioids…and safe for extended pain relief.
Of course, we quickly learned those claims were just plain wrong. The drugs were highly addictive.
But even then, the FDA didn’t intervene quickly enough to require proper warning labels on packaging.
And the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) added fuel to the fire by approving massive increases in the quotas of manufactured opioids.
So, suddenly, these highly addictive and dangerous drugs were everywhere!
At the same time, Purdue Pharma and other drug manufacturers garnered massive influence in Washington, D.C., by supporting advocacy groups and political campaigns. They even tried to influence curriculum at medical schools…
In fact, I well remember when a lobbying group representing big pharma made a big “pitch” at the national conference of medical schools in 2007. They said they would make hefty financial contributions to the schools if they would revise their teaching programs to focus more on the use of pharmaceuticals in the practice of medicine.
The Dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (my alma mater) led a delegation of faculty, alumni (myself included), and students to Washington to reject the offer.
Of course, not all the medical schools in the country felt the same way as we did. In fact, plenty of them accepted the drug money and changed their teaching curriculum.
Then, when COVID-19 hit U.S. soil two years ago, the wheels came off the wagon entirely…
The government’s mandated lockdowns cut off access to important, DRUG-FREE pain-relief treatments. Including safe, effective approaches—like acupuncture, bodywork, massage, and meditation and yoga groups.
The result? The year 2020 proved to be the opioid epidemic’s deadliest year yet—with more than 100,000 deaths from drug overdose.
Today, the problem is so bad, opioid drug deaths have pulled down the average life expectancy for the ENTIRE U.S. population! And the Stanford team predicts that one to two million more people will die from opioids in the remaining eight years of this decade alone.
Worse yet, there’s one KEY solution that the comprehensive report FAILED to mention, but could SOLVE the crisis completely…
Vitamin deficiency heightens risk?
Vitamin D acts like a hormone in the body—helping to produce “feel-good” endorphins that support your mood and reduce pain. And researchers are starting to think that LOW blood levels of vitamin D may significantly INCREASE a person’s risk of abusing opioids.
In fact, as I reported earlier this year, researchers with Massachusetts General Hospital found that men and women with insufficient (moderately low) levels of vitamin D are 50 percent more likely to use opioid drugs. And patients with a deficiency (or very low levels) are 90 percent more likely to use opioid drugs.
Plus, when looking at the problem from the opposite side, patients diagnosed with opioid use disorder (now called OUD) are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D, too.
Clearly, vitamin D blood testing…and daily supplementation…should be a regular part of the treatment plan.
Furthermore, people going into surgery, which often requires pain management with prescription drugs, should always have their vitamin D levels tested. Then, supplementation should begin immediately for anyone with low levels.
Of course, I recommend that EVERYONE achieve optimal vitamin D blood levels…not just those going into surgery or those already struggling with opioids.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels twice a year. A good rule of thumb is checking your levels once toward the end of winter and again toward the end of summer. Just ask for a simple blood test called the 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 25(OH)D test. (Optimal blood levels range between 50 and 75 ng/mL.)
- Supplement daily and year-round. The latest science shows that people don’t get enough vitamin D from diet and sun exposure alone. So, supplementing daily and year-round is a MUST. I recommend supplementing with 250 mcg (10,000 IU) of vitamin D3 daily. (You can now find it in liquid form together with the potent marine carotenoid astaxanthin. Simply use the top right search bar on my website to learn more about these two powerful compounds.)
At the end of the day, vitamin D is hands-down one of the most important supplements you can take. And I believe increasing supplementation of it among at-risk individuals may even play a KEY role in one day solving the opioid drug crisis.
You can learn about many other ways to combat pain—without resorting to dangerous drugs—in my book, Overcoming Acute and Chronic Pain.