Exploring drug-free pain relief

(NBC News) Attempts to treat chronic pain have lead to a national health crisis.

Since 1999 more than 165,000 people in the United States have overdosed on prescription painkillers. Millions more are addicted.

The Cleveland Clinic took the problem as a challenge: How to help people in pain without using medication?

“These patients come to us either really motivated and really looking for something different, or feeling like this is their last resort. And they need help,” says Josie Znidarsic of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute.

In 2015 the Wellness Institute began a program to treat chronic pain patients using alternative, drug-free therapies including yoga, acupuncture and hypnosis.

There are people who swear by it.

For years, Connie Powell took high doses of percocet and vicodin for pain relief.

“I’d given up on life. I didn’t feel there was any way out,” she recalls.

She did find her way out and away from prescription drugs. The program, along with steady practice of meditation played a big role.

Others have found success, too.

“We’ve seen people get rid of their walkers, we’ve seen people return to physical activity,” Znidarsic says.

About 100 people have completed the wellness program, and the class is billed through primary care, so insurance does cover the cost of the eight-week program.

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