Could natural methods help kick opioid addiction to the curb?

Alternative medicine may help wean people off opiates, but not all insurances cover the techniques.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Lisa Henricks takes a lot of pills.

She has no choice because of her constant pain.  

“I get more than four migraines a month, but my insurance only covers four pills for my migraine a month," she said. "That’s not cool. My muscle relaxer for my back, my legs. My morphine. Anti-depressant. Alprazolam."

Henricks was bitten on her finger by a fire ant 16 years ago. It turns out she was allergic, went into shock and nearly died.

She never fully recovered.

“I couldn’t even walk for a long long time, I was crawling around the house,” she said.

Acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care and myofascial treatments are among the alternative natural methods that would help wean her off the pills, she said.

However, none of those treatments are covered by her health insurance.

“I might get better. I just might," she said. "And, I might not have to take pain medicine. And, I might be able to go back to work. But, those are things that are unanswered because I don’t have access to it."

A political issue

Hendricks says she’s not addicted to the pills, but many people are.

Often times, they were led to them because of pain.

Dr. Edward Leonard, a Tampa chiropractor, has seen people lose their lives because of opioid addiction.

“Opioids should be really the last line therapy for maybe post-surgical pain and no more than 7 to 30 days of medication on it,” he said. “There’s no evidence that it’s effective for pain otherwise. It just gets people stoned half the time.”

Politics is why pharmaceuticals are a doctor’s first choice for a cure instead of things that could prevent popping pills, Leonard said.

“It’s gratifying as a practitioner because I really feel like I save their lives because I’ve seen it go the other way in the worst of ways," he said.

One of Leonard's patients, Mauricio Rosas is fortunate. His insurance paid for his chiropractic and acupuncture treatments after he was hit by a car.

“Mind you, I do take some medications," Rosas said. "With the acupuncture, it’s like an all-body massage and I feel very relaxed right now. Earlier when I first came in, I was tense, my body ached. Right now, I feel brand new."

Getting alternative treatments covered

Here's a few tips to getting alternative treatments covered:

  1. Change your insurance policy – look for companies that will cover it.
  2. Make a good case that your treatment is necessary by getting a prescription from a doctor.
  3. Limit your out of pocket expenses by talking to the acupuncturist or chiropractor, see if they are willing to help you.
  4. Be careful, make sure you consult with a reputable doctor for all treatments.
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