An option some recovering opioid addicts are now using to treat the pain that started it all is proving to be difficult to access.
Drug-free treatment options like chiropractic care are growing in popularity, but one doctor in Northeast Ohio is sounding the alarm about the barriers keeping some patients from getting relief without popping pills.
Paul Byrd has been in several car accidents. Those crashes left him with lasting injuries, including "lower back pains and mid back pains," he said.
Byrd said that he "found relief in pain pills and opioids. It takes more and more to get there and get deeper in that hole."
It didn't take long for Byrd to become hooked.
"Rely on these pills just to feel normal," said Byrd.
After run-ins with police, Byrd made the decision to get sober.
"Once I got clean, I started looking for an alternative route," said Byrd.
That path led him to Dr. Patrick Ensminger.
"You see a lot more people saying I'm coming here because I don't want drug-based care," said Byrd.
While demand for his chiropractic care is surging, Ensminger said a limited number of patients can access his services.
"There exists significant insurance barriers to the public seeking pain management," said Ensminger.
This, despite physician groups, the FDA and even the president's opioid cabinet touting this pain treatment option.
"We are attempting to create a sea change towards increased access to and coverage for chiropractic care," said Ensminger.
A recent study in the medical journal BMJ shows patients who visited a chiropractor first decreased their odds of both early and long-term opioid use by 90%.
"That data hopefully will lead many medical physicians to begin increasing referrals to doctors of chiropractic and other drug-free care," said Ensminger.
For Byrd, it's helping with the pain.
"It's not waking me up in the middle of the night anymore," said Byrd.
Under his Medicaid plan, Paul gets 15 chiropractic visits a year. He's down to his last one.
"You don't have to worry about the addiction," said Byrd.
Dr. Ensminger told News 5 that he will continue caring for Byrd even when his coverage runs out.
"That could be a moment of weakness that causes them to relapse and go back to the use of opioids," said Ensminger.
With his life back on track, Byrd has plans to go back to school to study Marine Biology and continue his drug-free care.
"It's just helping me stay focused on my recovery now. The treatment I'm getting from chiropractic is actually helping a lot more than the pills were," said Byrd.
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