Are you obese and addicted to opioids? It may not be your fault. A recent study published in the journal, Pain, indicates that obesity leads to higher rates of long-term opioid use for chronic pain. In the survey covering 25,000 people by the Boston University of Public Health, a strong correlation was found between a person being obese, and higher usage of opioids over the long run to treat chronic pain.
Obesity, An Epidemic Rather Than a Moral Failing
People suffering from obesity experience significant negativity when it comes to their condition. Of all the epidemics and chronic illnesses in the world, obesity is the one that health professionals, individuals, and the press have no problem moralizing over. In another interesting article published in The National Post, author of the book, “The Way We Eat Now,” Bee Wilson is quoted as saying:
“It’s clearly absolute nonsense to think that the current obesity crisis has been caused by a deficit of willpower. For that to be true, willpower would have had to have collapsed in every continent of the globe simultaneously across men, women, people of all ages. It’s really bizarre that we still want to view that as the main cause of obesity rather than looking for environmental causes, but people just cling onto these ways of thinking.”
Jason Fung, a Toronto-based nephrologist, makes a scathing summary of how the medical profession views obesity. In a nutshell, he feels that the medical world doesn’t really understand how to treat obesity. Instead, many hold the following view:
“Hey, we understand the disease. The problem is you. You didn’t listen to us.” It’s a hurtful attitude at best and a potentially dangerous viewpoint at worst.
Why Obesity Leads to Higher Rates of Long-Term Opioid Use for Chronic Pain
According to an article in Kaiser Health News about the Boston study,
“Obesity is one of the five major contributors to chronic pain, according to the Institute of Medicine. It raises risks for arthritis, back pain, diabetes-associated nerve pain, fibromyalgia, and migraine, for example, though factors such as biomechanical strain on joints and chronic inflammation in the body.”
This is in sync with the findings from the Boston study. The researchers noticed that obese patients are more likely to suffer from chronic lower back pain. This pain is frequently the reason for their visit to a doctor in the first place. Using the Body Mass Index (BMI) as a guide, patients with a BMI in the Overweight range had an 11% higher likelihood of opioid overuse than people in the Normal range. Patients with a BMI in the Overweight range had as much as a 233% higher likelihood of opioid abuse, depending upon the degree of obesity.
Dr. Rahman Shiri of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki, Finland, has found a strong association between obesity and lower back pain. Though not a part of the Boston study, his research and findings support those from the study. It is clear, at least at this point, that chronic pain leads obese people to seek relief through prescription medications. When the individual falls in an obese weight/BMI range, the odds that those individuals will become long-term opioid users jumps significantly.
A Difficult Problem
According to a Reuters article, the Boston researchers estimate as much as 14% of all opioid use in the United States is by patients suffering from obesity. If that figure is accurate, resolving cases where obesity leads to higher rates of long-term opioid use would result in 1.5 million fewer people overusing these dangerous drugs.
These are significant numbers and a problem worth solving. However, it is not clear how to address obesity. It is not a simple matter of going on a diet and sticking to it. Willpower is not the root cause. There are many more factors at play, including; peer pressure, lack of self-esteem, depression, being constantly bombarded by food ads, and more.
Carus Can Help
Carus Recovery Center is dedicated to helping everyone with addiction recover and return to a normal life. In cases where obesity leads to higher rates of long-term opioid use, our staff is prepared to assist you or a loved one. Using a combination of our programs and therapies, we can develop a strategy for recovery that addresses both addiction and obesity. Contact us or call 877-225-7724 today.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used in place of professional assistance.