Search for alternatives to opioids

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Over the years, the opioid crisis in has become one of the biggest issues in the United States.

Image Source: MGN

More than 183,000 people have died from overdoses related to prescription opioids since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Robert Goldstein, the director of the University of Virginia Pain Management Center, said people often misuse pills in order to get a buzz or to deal with their mood or depression.

He feels that it has become more and more challenging to educate patients about properly managing opioids.

"It is medications that can be very helpful in certain situations but also they come with a cost and they come with challenges sometimes," said Goldstein.

Many doctors around the country are looking for alternatives to prescribing opioids, and one doctor in the area recently adopted a new device that will help patients manage chronic pain.

Dr. Akhtar Purvez, the medical director of the Pain and Spine Center of Charlottesville, recently started using a spinal cord stimulator called, Stim Wave, which allows patients to dull the pain in their back, neck, legs or arms.

"It's done as an outpatient procedure," said Purvez. "There is no hospitalization required but we do have to do a test so for the first time when the patient comes to us, when we decide that they have to have the simulator implanted, we will implant the stimulator as a trial procedure."

One of his patients, Delmont Pardee, has been using the device since January and it has worked wonders for him.

He hurt his back when he was in the U.S. Army years ago, but he didn't deal with the pain much until he left the military.

"Thirty-two years of age, all of a sudden, I had such bad back pain and my right leg would go completely numb," said Pardee. "I could only take about a few steps."

He has tried different remedies to get rid of the pain but none of them really worked for him and he never used opioids.

"I don't believe in taking drugs," said Pardee. "It's masking one problem with another problem."

After dealing with the pain for 45 years, Pardee found Purvez who suggested the Stim Wave procedure.

Since then, Pardee's quality of life has improved.

"You believe in miracles? I do," he said. "I walk up and down the stairs, I mow the yard now, I weed eat the yard. I go on walks with my wife. I can sit here and I'm pain-free."

Purvez realizes the device might not work for everyone, but it does provide an alternative for taking pills.

"Everything does not work on everybody," said Purvez. "We have patients that give them a trial of this stimulator and they come back and they may say that it didn't help much, so we have to look at other options. My goal is to improve their functions, improve their quality of life and give them something that does not risk their lives."

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