Dealing with chronic pain is difficult for doctors and patients alike. For doctors, when dealing with conditions like fibromyalgia, CRPS, lipedema, and other chronic pain disorders, most treatment plans include the use of opioid painkillers. For patients, the risk of developing an unhealthy dependency on these drugs—amongst other concerns—is scary. But what if these opiate painkillers don’t even work? What are doctors supposed to do then?
In the case of Lori Pinkley, a 50-year-old woman from Kansas City, MO whose battle with chronic pain started when she was 15, her symptoms were not easily alleviated with opioids. She hated taking opioids, mostly because they just didn’t work—but she had no other option. However, many decades later, she stumbled across an alternative treatment—taking a low dose of the generic drug Naltrexone—where she was finally able to find relief for her chronic pain.
So, why wasn’t Pinkley able to find this treatment sooner? Essentially, because it is a 50-year old drug that is only available in generic form. According to an article published by National Public Radio, (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/09/23/741783834/in-tiny-doses-an-addiction-medication-moonlights-as-a-treatment-for-chronic-pain), “(pharmaceutical) companies … are not willing to (bring drugs to market) unless they can get a patent and be the sole supplier of that drug.” Sadly, this means that, despite there being useful and beneficial applications for this and many other generic drugs, they are rarely explored because there is no monopoly or monetary incentive. This is similar to what happened with ketamine for depression: it was clearly a miracle treatment for many suffering from debilitating mental health disorders and chronic pain conditions, but because there was no financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies, no one would fund the clinical trials to push the medication through the FDA-approval process. However, ketamine was lucky enough to garner plenty of media attention and become widely-respected as one of the most effective depression treatments available today.
There must be many others, like Lori, who live with chronic pain, but cannot find relief using opioid painkillers. Could Naltrexone work for them? Are there other generic chronic pain management medications that could work when opiates fail to deliver adequate relief?
Unfortunately, some doctors are not even aware of alternative applications for Naltrexone and other generic medications because there is no advertisement for them. This means that they can’t even refer their patients to seek out treatment independently. For those who are aware, the out-of-pocket cost for generic drugs like Naltrexone or ketamine can be steep because they are not covered by insurance. However, the cost is usually very well worth the relief these medications can deliver, and those patients with an option to seek independent treatment are often happy to do so.
For those who are aware of their treatment options, the proof is in the pudding: there are many people, like Lori, who have found peace only after discovering alternative treatments on their own. For Naltrexone, reducing a 50mg dose down to 5mg is enough to alleviate symptoms. Similarly, receiving a single ketamine infusion for chronic pain could be life changing, delivering pain relief for as long as 6-months.
Patients should research the options that are available to them, and not take for granted that their primary care physician or mental health care provider will recommend all possible treatment options—they may not be aware of the full spectrum of options that exist! Of course, always speak with your doctor before engaging in a novel pain or depression treatment, or ask our clinic if ketamine infusions might be right for you.
Contact Vitalitas Denver
Vitalitas Denver is one of the country’s most trusted ketamine clinics—since 2015, we have performed thousands of ketamine infusions, and changed countless lives for the better. Our Colorado ketamine clinics are located in Denver and the Boulder/Fort Collins areas. If you are curious about the benefits of ketamine and think you may be a candidate, please contact us using the brief form below. A member of our highly experienced clinical team will contact you to answer your questions and point you in the right direction!