By Mara Benner
A new preliminary report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that over 72,000 U.S. citizens lost their lives last year to an insidious and unexpected perpetrator: opioids. A ten percent increase from the year before with over 115 Americans losing their lives to an opioid overdose every day–and that number is increasing. If you are thinking it is related solely to street drug use, you may be surprised to discover that the CDC also reports 40% of all opioid overdose deaths involved prescription drugs.
Now, city, state and federal officials are seeking comprehensive approaches to change the addiction rate. One of many options is engagement with healthcare professionals to seek innovative approaches to reducing pain with less reliance on drug-only approaches.
Launch of “Live Fully Support Group”
One such approach is being spearheaded by the GW Center for Integrative Medicine in partnership with Four Directions Wellness. This month, the two organizations will launch a monthly support group for those suffering with chronic pain and chronic illness. The “Live Fully Support Group” will encourage participants to share what strategies work best for living life with chronic pain and illness. Integrative healthcare professionals will also be available to offer mind-body techniques to support the participants.
The Live Fully Support Group is launching just in time to recognize September as Pain Awareness Month. This national initiative encourages all of us to learn about the difficulties experienced by those suffering with chronic pain, to understand the highly addictive nature of opioids, and to learn ways to support those experiencing pain on a daily basis, including those suffering with a chronic illness. It is estimated that as many as one in four Americans is suffering from ongoing or chronic pain, as determined by the National Center for Health Statistics.
National Search for Non-Drug Alternatives
For years, our healthcare system has encouraged the reduction of a patient’s pain through the use of opioids (such as oxycodone, fentanyl, and hydrocodone). A key objective for hospitals and physicians has been to reduce the pain levels for its patients, and that has encouraged the use of prescribing opioids. Research has indicated the highly addictive nature of opioids, indicating that an individual risks becoming addicted within days of starting the drug. The longer a person is on opioids, the greater likelihood of addiction. Our local region has been impacted as Virginia and Maryland comprise 8% of national opioid overdoses, and this statistic does not include the District of Columbia.
Now, governmental officials, healthcare professionals, and others are seeking new approaches to reducing pain. The Center for Disease Control, the Joint Commission on Healthcare Accreditation, and the Department of Health and Human Services are among other governmental agencies encouraging the exploration of non-pharmacological alternatives. Potential drug-free strategies include modalities such as acupuncture therapy, osteopathic manipulative treatment, massage therapy, relaxation therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.
The Joint Commission has included these modalities as a standard (Standard PC.01.02.07) for ambulatory care, critical access hospitals, home care, hospital, nursing care centers and office-based surgery programs.
GW CIM Partners with Four Directions Wellness
The GW Center for Integrative Medicine opened in the spring of 1998 under the direction of Dr. John Pan. Dr. Pan spearheaded the introduction of alternative medicine in the Washington DC area. Over the past several years, the Center transitioned to Dr. Mikhail Kogan, who serves as the medical director and specializes in primary care internal medicine, integrative geriatrics, and functional medicine.
Under Dr. Kogan’s leadership the Center has grown and has also established a nonprofit organization, AIM Health Institute, geared at offering alternative medicine to those unable to afford the services in the DC area.
The Center is partnering with Four Directions Wellness owner, Mara Benner to launch the Live Fully Support Group. Ms. Benner is a practitioner at the GW Center for Integrative Medicine in addition to running Alexandria-based Four Directions Wellness, an organization that helps individuals connect body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Ms. Benner achieves this goal by helping individuals tap into his or her innate ability to heal.
Those suffering from chronic pain or chronic illness are encouraged to register for one of the two monthly support groups.
GW Center for Integrative Medicine
Second Wednesday of the Month
908 New Hampshire Avenue
Four Directions Wellness
Third Tuesday of the Month
2001 Mount Vernon Avenue
To register for the support group or for more information, please visit www.fourdirectionswellness.com/classes.