When you hear about the opioid crisis in America, you may innately think of substances like heroin or fentanyl. It may feel foreign to think about how those could impact you, your friends and loved ones – even though the opioid crisis is something we hear about frequently on the news and in our communities these days.

While illicit substances are blamed for many overdose deaths, the reality is that many addictions begin with prescription opioids for pain management. Beyond that, prescription opioids like Percocet or OxyContin do cause deaths of their own; in 2017, 15,000 overdose deaths were linked to prescription opioids.

Some may say doctors should prescribe less opioids – and they probably should. Though the number of opioids prescribed per person is more than triple what it was in 1999, per the CDC, consumers’ pain levels haven’t decreased.

However, pain management is a prevalent and real issue for many Americans; the CDC estimates that 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, as of 2016. It’s certainly an issue here in New England too; 1 in 4 Massachusetts adults have chronic pain.

So, what do we do? While we can’t expect to solve the epidemic in one blog post – though we would love to if we could – we can make strides in the right direction. One important area to explore is alternative treatments for pain.

That’s where stem cells come in. Stem cells are intended to help your body heal injured tissue as opposed to masking injury symptoms like pain and discomfort. Our unique mesenchymal stem cells activate the body’s own self-healing mechanisms for cellular/tissue regeneration and repair.

MSCs work by seeking out inflammation; once they are injected into the problem area, they work quickly to activate new tissue creation. They don’t create new tissue or healing themselves; rather, they are messengers that signal your body to activate self-healing and regeneration.

What does this mean? With stem cells, your chronic pain can be healed instead of just masked with a temporary painkiller. Wouldn’t it be a meaningful step if even one or two people per day in our country tried leveraging stem cells instead of visiting the pharmacy for a new opioid prescription?

We’re confident that we as a society can turn the corner with this epidemic – with drug treatment, care teams, medical and scientific industries all working together, we are bound to make progress.