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Opioids often aren't a great way to treat chronic pain. So … what is?

A pain patient weaning herself off opioids, a pain patient who can't imagine his life without them, and the future of pain treatment.

Illustration of person’s mouth holding a pill Angie Wang

In the past decade or so, we’ve realized that opioids are not a good solution for most chronic pain patients. They can be highly addictive drugs, and over time, patients often have to take larger and larger doses to get the same results. And those larger doses can have dangerous side effects.

But if doctors cut back on opioid prescriptions, how can they help the millions of Americans who are struggling with chronic pain?

On this episode of The Impact, we’re looking at a possible future for pain treatment. It’s an idea known as “pain acceptance,” and in the wake of the opioid epidemic, it is gaining traction among American doctors.

Pain acceptance is kind of just what it sounds like. It means asking patients to live with a certain level of pain — for months, years, or even for the rest of their lives.

We’ll hear from a doctor, Jane Ballantyne, who helps her chronic pain patients with pain acceptance, plus a chronic pain patient named Kristin Geiger, who has embraced pain acceptance — and is actually trying to wean herself off of opioids right now.

And we’ll hear from a patient named Sam Merrill. He’s really skeptical that he can replace his opioid prescription with physical therapy and meditation — or “just live” with his crippling pain.

This is the second episode in our series on pain treatment. To understand how opioids became our pain treatment of choice in the first place, listen to our story from last week.

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