THE DRUG BULLETIN’s first interview is with Dr. Stephen Price, D.C. N.M.D. Dr. Price is a highly respected and well-known chiropractor, nutritionist and naturopathic physician. He has been practicing in Los Angeles for more than 35 years. He is a recognized member of the American Chiropractic Association and holds certifications with the American Naturopathic Medical Association as a Naturopathic Physician. This interview by THE DRUG BULLETIN Editor at Dr. Price’s office, discusses a recent development of his — Bio-Relieve Herbal Inflammatory TM, a drug-free, opiate/opioid-free herbal supplement offering pain relief without addictive side effect.
- A Very Brief History of Opium and its Derivatives
- The Interview with Dr. Stephen Price
- Not-quite-a-review of Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic: Balancing Societal and Individual Benefits and Risks of Prescription Opioid Use, a report by the Committee on Pain Management and Regulatory Strategies to Address Prescription Opioid Abuse (in the process of being published by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 5
A Very Brief History of Opium and its Derivatives
Editor: Let’s take a moment to give some background to this interview about a new drug-free pain killer and what its type might signify.
It is unfortunately common knowledge that across the United States there is a terrible and still escalating opiate/opioid problem. It’s all about pain.
Solving pain is an ancient problem. Millennia ago opium was a great lifesaver — Alexander used it, Caesar used it, the Middle Ages doctors Galen and Avicenna prescribed it. Aside for dulling pain, opium’s anti-laxative quality has saved untold thousands of soldiers’ and others’ lives who contracted dysentery from drinking polluted water. Coming forward, opium first became a major geopolitical weapon with the enforced sales of opium to China by England (and America), resulting in the Opium Wars, which China lost. By the late 19th century it is estimated that one out of ten Chinese men were addicted to smoking opium. Nor was the West exempt. In England and elsewhere an opium concoction called Laudanum was prescribed and made broadly available for any woes, physical or mental. Opium addiction began to spread in the West. The lure and tragedy of opium and laudanum were celebrated in Thomas de Quincey’s autobiographical Confessons of an Opium Eater.
Meanwhile the German chemist Serteuner had derived the first opium analogue — morphine — whose painkilling effects greatly eased the suffering of hundreds of thousands of American Civil War and future soldiers up to even today. But morphine is even more addictive than opium. Addiction to morphine came to be called the ‘soldiers’ disease.’ One of the next analogues was the more powerful ‘heroin,’ developed by Bayer Pharmaceutical. It was presented first as a ‘cure’ to morphine addiction. Because of its more potent analgesic effects, heroin came into wide use in the early 20th century. Soon hundreds of thousands of American women who took heroin for menstrual cramps and other afflictions became addicted. There was a national outcry which resulted in the Harrison Narcotics Act in 1914, regulating and trying to control opiate (as well as coca) products.
Legislation and attempted government control did not stop heroin addiction. Morphine, of course, continued up to present time to be used for pain relief, including for acute battle wounds. In World War II the Germans started to run out of morphine and derived an artificial substitute called originally adolphine, but now known as methadone. Because it has a longer half-life metabolism and is stronger than heroin, it came to be used as a heroin substitute for addicts seeking escape. It is also used for pain relief. Withdrawal from methadone is worse than from heroin. Damned if they did and damned if they didn’t, many recovering addicts decided or had no alternative but to stay on methadone, living lives on what is called ‘methadone maintenance.’
More recently arrived the next in morphine substitutes, buprenorphine — equally if not more helpful to heroin addicts and a little easier to withdraw from. Buprenorphine has come to be used in various formulations as a generally better substitute than methadone for opiate or opioid addiction. ‘Medically-assisted treatment’ it is called and much ballyhooed and promoted.
But the opiate problem became even more complex and insidious with the development of multiple other artificial opioid analogues for pain relief, such as Darvon, Darvocet, Percodan, Percocet, Vicodin. Addiction to these spread widely. Then in 1996 Purdue Pharma introduced Oxycontin.1 This was about the same time that the prohibition against advertising pharmaceuticals on television was reversed. 2 (Television tobacco advertising revenue had plummeted. What else was there to do?) Oxycontin is a time-release powerful painkiller. Prescriptions for ‘Oxy’ skyrocketed. People with pain issues could go to work or take it after work. Young people and addicts discovered it produced a high longer lasting than heroin. Medicine cabinets were pilfered and, paralleling the skyrocketing expansion of the internet, purchasing illicit Oxy became just that much easier. Like all the other opiates and opioids Oxycontin ‘solves’ pain, but like all of them it is addictive. Terribly addictive.
Opiates and opioids are toxins. Simply put, using too much of them not only puts you to sleep, it can kill you. Overdose, they call it. Or just one more dose. Whatever. But the subtler and more insidious trap is that the body in its effort to detoxify via the liver and kidneys develops a ‘tolerance’ for the drug, and the user who may be requiring it for continued pain or to feed his or her addiction has to take a higher dose to get the same painkilling or euphoric effect. Eventually, the body is in full time detoxification mode and the person using the drug, legally or illegally, lives in continuous withdrawal, having to use more and more, more and more frequently, or graduate to more powerful drugs. Doctors prescribe more of it in more powerful doses, and until recently they have not been much policed regarding the ethics of this. Persons who’ve become addicted to Oxy and find their doctor now refuses them another prescription go ‘doctor shopping’ or steal or forge ‘scrips.’
It is estimated now that 95 million Americans are using pharmaceutical pain pills. Purdue Pharma has made, perhaps, $31 billion from Oxycontin alone.
It gets worse. Oxy is expensive. Paralleling the rise in pharmaceutical drug abuse the Mexican drug cartels cleverly began to flood the American market recently with cheap heroin, targeting new regions where youth and adults were becoming addicted to pharmaceutical pills — including New England and the Midwest. Pharmaceutical addicts turned to this cheaper heroin and started overdosing on that. It is a sad testament to human greed that the profits from heroin sales were not enough for the drug dealers. They began cutting the heroin with the cheaper and much, much more powerful fentanyl and its analogues. In Akron, Ohio, when heroin cut with the most powerful opioid analogue, carfentanyl, was released on the streets in the summer of 2016, 17 persons died in the first 24 hours and 140 more over the next months.3 Now there is legislation and regulation raining down to restrain doctors from overprescribing Oxycontin and other such drugs. Legislation to track drug prescriptions, etc.
The still unsolved problem is that no one knows, or only a few, how to get people off opiates or opioids. The inability to effectively rehabilitate addicts long-term has been morphed into defining addiction as an incurable disease. Medically-assisted treatment, the use of drug substitutes in addition to other treatment, has become widely accepted and of course studied and is being pushed for universal adoption as the standard model.
But the more fundamental and still unsolved problem, after all these centuries, is pain relief, the need for a less dangerous, non-addictive pain relief treatment. The bad news is that the number one cause of death for Americans under 50 years of age is now overdose from pharmaceutical pain pills. Probably the majority of these persons started with a medical prescription for pain. We are not alone in being a country on pharmaceutical pain pills. Doctors just don’t know how else to readily address problems of pain. We need good news in this department. Hence this interview and others to follow.
Are you, Dr. Price, offering up something that might help?
The Interview with Dr. Stephen Price
Dr. Stephen Price: Thank you for that historical background. What is interesting about opiates or opioids is that they actually do not negate or kill pain. They stimulate the limbic system. [The limbic system describes a set of brain structures underneath the cerebrum that support functions such as emotion, motivation, and behavior.] You experience opiates as ‘pleasure,’ not a specific but overall fulfilling pleasure. Not “my forehead feels better…” or “my hand feels better.” It’s just “Whoooa! Everything is better.”
The body runs on an on/off, pain/pleasure system. Pain is the driving force to solve a problem such as hunger, a hurt body part, sunburn, etc. Pleasure drives and motivates function. Let’s face it, it is a lot of work to get food, but the pleasure of a full stomach outweighs the pain of an empty stomach.
The neurochemical ‘endorphin’ is the body’s internal morphine. When you exercise strongly, although it hurts, the body floods you with endorphin. You still feel the pain (it would be dangerous not to), but you don’t care about it anymore.
Morphine doesn’t solve pain. It makes you not care about it.
Then, as you come off the morphine or other opiate or opioid high, you care about the pain again. And need to take some more.
Morphine doesn’t solve pain. It makes you not care about it.
Editor: Could you go into that in more detail?
Dr. Price: You take a drug and the limbic system becomes first stimulated, then desensitized. That’s why a person starts out with one cigarette and rapidly needs more and more. Nicotine is a deadly poison, but it metabolizes rapidly. If you can metabolize something rapidly, it basically can’t kill you. It metabolizes out of the system. So you have to dose, dose, dose — twenty cigarettes a day. The limbic system has a rate of stimulation. If something hits you hard and fast, it pushes the system up. It records what chemistry it was that did that and, when you come off it, it sends out a subliminal pain message. Addicts in withdrawal really do feel pain. They try to hit that high again. They never get there. The body knows how to metabolize the toxin, and so they have to injest more. And more. Eventually, they do enough where it can’t be metabolized — it’s over the top — floods the system and affects other systems such as breathing. You stop breathing. You’re dead.
Editor: Where does morphine act? How does it work?
Dr. Price: Where do morphine or other such drugs act? Not specifically on the cells of the damaged finger or the burnt skin. Novocaine would work. It is a local anesthetic. Morphine and its analogues are a general anesthetic and a hypnotic. You get high. You don’t give a damn. It still doesn’t deal with the pain itself.
You mentioned Laudanum. Around for hundreds of years, opium-based, terribly addictive. It’s still being used, you know. I had a patient who had government permission to take massive amounts of laudanum. She came to me because she wanted off. I gave her 25,000 units of vitamin C intravenous. Then gave her her daily dose of laudanum. The vitamin C reduced the high, but it didn’t rid her of the addiction. Our theory is that vitamin C protects the limbic system in the brain from over-restimulation.
Editor: You mentioned morphine doesn’t “deal with pain itself.” What does deal with pain itself if morphine doesn’t?
Dr. Price: The simple truth is that you can’t have pain without inflammation. If you get rid of the inflammation, you get rid of the pain.
Inflammation can compound. Once you get inflammation, then your circulation can be affected. Now that tissue doesn’t have cleansing. It doesn’t get nutrition. That’s why you sometimes use heat to increase circulation. Cold is used to put out the fire and push the swelling away. Swelling gone, new fluid comes in.
The simple truth is that you can’t have pain without inflammation.
If you get rid of the inflammation, you get rid of the pain.
Generations of herbalists took note of what herbs helped with pain — turmeric, ginger, etc. Such herbs help in different ways.
The pain relief supplement I’ve developed, Bio-Relieve Herbal Anti-Inflammatory, as the name describes is a compilation of ten herbs that together reduce or get rid of inflammation. It settles down the fire without all the nasty side effects of opiates and opioids.
Over my career of 40 years as a licensed practitioner, I have dealt every single day with people in pain. At first, we start with a vitamin regimen. Then we try some herbal neurochemical such as turmeric, this or that. If the pain continues, I can fall back on Ibuprofen or another NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug).
Editor: Why use NSAIDs instead of opiate-based or opioids?
Dr. Price: There is a sequence of chemical steps that are involved in creating an inflammatory situation that causes pain. Ibuprofen blocks a certain chemical in that chain of steps. It doesn’t do anything to the inflammazone. So the pain gets bigger. If you don’t deal with the source of the pain, it gets worse. It’s the body’s very effective way of alerting you to the fact that “THERE IS A SITUATION HERE!”
Editor: Aren’t there negative side effects involved with non-steroidals?
Dr. Price: 35,000 people die each year from bleeding due to taking NSAIDs. They thin the blood. They burn the stomach lining. They all burn the stomach. Hence the label warning: “Take with food.” Some are blood thinners, used with persons after or to prevent a heart attack, thinners such as aspirin or baby aspirin. Aspirin came from white willow bark. It has been known to treat pain and became known as a ‘miracle’ drug. But it does cause bleeding. It also has the ability to alter mental function.
Editor: So what did you discover you could use instead?
Dr. Price: Having all these persons presenting themselves with pain, I did not have a solution for certain levels of pain. I started putting together research done by many others on different herbs.
I looked for herbs that supported one another so that each herb can do its job effectively. Something to reduce the histamines — part of inflammation and allergy. Something that helps swelling of prostate tissue because that helps all the tissues of the body. Etc.
But if you give a lot of an herb, then you can get an unwanted reaction. It had to be a combination of herbs, balancing each other.
I was looking for the combination lock. No one has found that for pain. It was trial and error. The combination I came up with started handling lung congestion, sinus congestion, joint pain, arthritis pain. The herbs have a digestive soothing. They are not anything but food. Bio-Relieve is a team of construction workers, all doing a different job. But working together, they work faster.
I did beta testing. Patients would come back with such great responses that I was suspicious. “You’re just being nice to me.” Over a year of testing. Just a few sample anecdotes: A man with arthritis took Bio-Relieve for two months and now has no pain anymore. He handled the acute inflammation, too. They’re finding chronic inflammation in all these huge diseases. “Your pancreas has been inflamed for 20 years. Now you have diabetes. Or pancreatic cancer.” Prior to the disease process, you’re going to see that inflammation. Some people are taking a little Bio-Relieve just before bed because they want to keep inflammation out of their life. It helps their sleep because of the antihistamine, but has no mental effect.
I was looking for the combination lock. No one has found that for pain…
Bio-Relieve is a team of construction workers, all doing a different job.
But working together, they work faster.
Editor: What does the FDA say?
Dr. Price: This is not treating a disease. It is not curing a disease. As long as you’re not treating something, you can use a nutritional supplement as you see fit. If you give someone an herb so his “bowels move better,” that’s a condition, not a disease. Fatigue is a condition, lack of energy.
I can do clinical trials because this is a clinical environment. Try taking this instead of that. A few days later, the patient says he feels better. Check. Now stop taking it. The pain comes back. Check. You get reports. Long term sinus problems going away. Check. Long term arthritis problems. Check. These herbs have been shown to positively affect various undesirable conditions. There are many studies that have shown that various individual herbs have been shown to reduce inflammation.
Another anecdote: One patient is older and does catering. He is on his feet many hours a day. Then his feet hurt. He started taking Bio-Relieve. The next day after a full day on his feet, he did not suffer. For him his bending and lifting was creating stress on his joints which would create an inflammatory response and he would experience that as pain the next day. We’ve prevented that. He, by the way, is a disbeliever. He told me “I am sure this works because I don’t believe in this kind of thing, but it worked anyway!”
I don’t want believers. I just want facts.
This product is such a good message to people. You can solve many pains without addictive or dangerous drugs. That message needs to go out. Who else can I try to help? That’s all I’m concerned about. Of course, it does not handle every kind of pain.
A further point: For something to be classified a drug, it has to have a harmful side effect. If it doesn’t have a harmful side effect, they don’t classify it as a drug. That’s why they regulate it. That’s why there’s testing.
Editor: How does the pain-relieving effect of Bio-Relieve compare to NSAIDs?
Dr. Price: If the maximum non-prescription (over the counter) dose of an NSAID is, say, ‘3 tabs 4 times a day’ or ‘4 tabs 3 times a day,’ that’s the Gold Standard. We could mark that as a ‘10’ in terms of pain prevention. I was going to be happy with a ‘4’ or a ‘5.’ That would help half the people taking NSAIDs. That’s a lot. The pain reduction reports I was starting to get back were at ‘6’ to ‘8.’ I asked, “Are you sure?” This kind of response would mean that most of my patients would not need to go on to anti-inflammatory drugs with their concomitant dangers. Herbs could handle it. That’s good news.
Editor: What about those people taking Oxycontin or other pharmaceutical opioids for pain?
Dr. Price: None of my patients have been required to go to opiates or opioids. I deal with severe herniated disc. Fractures of the spine. Separated, torn muscles. Severe sciatica. We can compound…a little bit of Advil, herbs, and Tylenol. You can take someone who has a fractured shoulder and give them enough opioids to pass out and…the pain goes away. Or you can take the same patient and give them herbs, which means they can take less anti-inflammatory drugs, less Tylenol, and they can dose through the day and do…just fine. There’s no addiction. You don’t see people going to drug stores to steal Tylenol.
We could take Bio-Relieve, these ten herbs combined, and that reduces the pain to ‘5 out of worst 10.’ Then add, if need be, an anti-inflammatory drug, and instead of doing 12 per day, do 3. If that doesn’t quite get it, add a couple Extra-Strength Tylenol.
I have never had to refer someone to a doctor to put them on opioids.
Editor: Doctors and opioids.
Dr. Price: Doctors have now been criminally threatened regarding opioids. These poor doctors. There could be a whole separate conversation why doctors don’t practice medicine anymore — the drug companies practice medicine. What happens is: The drug company says ‘Here it is. This will handle your patient’s pain.’ And the doctor has no other tools to handle pain. The patient comes in with pain. This is your only tool. And it’s addictive.
The other thing is that if drug companies hire someone to do a study, and that study is published in one of the journals — whether it’s an accurate study, or a full study, or…a lie, frankly, that becomes the ‘standard of medicine.’ That is the ‘evidence-based practice.’ If you don’t do what has just been discovered and declared the ‘standard,’ you can be held accountable.
I have spoken to doctors in other countries. They sadly comment, “American doctors don’t touch their patients. They don’t touch them. They talk to them and send them for a test and then look at the test. And another test. And write something on a piece of paper and hand it to them. They can’t even touch them.”
I am not anti-medical. Medicine is very, very good at ‘death prevention.’ But they have no idea about health. They just have to stop you from dying.
Editor: It’s a matter of missing education. Nutrition and health has been removed from their education.
I am not anti-medical.
Medicine is very, very good at ‘death prevention.’
But they have no idea about health.
They just have to stop you from dying.
Dr. Price: In 1984 Time Magazine published its whole thing on ‘vitamins don’t work. They’re useless.’ But alternative health, chiropractic, kept showing they worked. And worked and worked. Now you have drug companies making Centrum One-a-Day. They jump on the band wagon. Then they find something that’s interfering with one of their drugs — like L-Tryptophan for sleep. Remember the tryptophan ordeal? Banning the amino acid entirely because of the effects of one toxic batch. They want to regulate amino acids.
Editor: What about the hundreds of thousands of addicts who are being told that they can’t get off drugs without taking opioids? A different kind of pain, but just as severe sometimes.
Dr. Price: I don’t do drug withdrawal, but I do make available a highly workable formulation of intensive B vitamins, balanced with other nutrients, in a powdered form. The Narconon drug rehabilitation program has been using this or something similar for decades with good results. Many symptoms of drug withdrawal parallel vitamin and mineral deficiency symptoms. It makes sense for persons who have poisoned themselves with drugs to take vitamins. They’ll find they feel less pain and can sleep better.
Editor: Thank you for your time. If someone reading this is interested to learn more about your herbal combination, Bio-Relieve, where can they look?
Dr. Price: I have it on the bottle. The website is www.biologicnutrients.com. Please note: This has not been evaluated by the FDA, and the statements I have just made have not been evaluated by the FDA. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Every herb in here has multiple write-ups on the websites on its uses. I was awfully lucky when I found this combination and it worked.
Editor: Thank you kindly for your time, doctor, and for all the effort and research you have put into this new herbal combination. Among others working to find non-toxic, non-addictive remedies to pain, you are leading the way. Best of luck to you and to the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of addicts seeking to recover who need this kind of help.
“Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic:
Balancing Societal and Individual Benefits and Risks of Prescription Opioid Use”
Editor: Just as we were polishing up the interview for posting in The Drug Bulletin, The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine sent out their latest batch of publications about to be released. This included the very apropos 393-page “consensus study report” above on “pain management and the opioid epidemic.” It is a group effort as these kinds of publications need to be and as the national, soon to be international, opioid abuse crisis demands. Its group author is the Committee on Pain Management and Regulatory Strategies to Address Prescription Opioid Abuse. The book’s editors are Richard J. Bonnie, Morgan A. Ford, and Jonathan K. Phillips. The Academy release is a “prepublication” copy, evidently “uncorrected proofs.”
As stated, what follows is not a “review.” I would like The Drug Bulletin to do a review, but that will take more time. The Report states that it has already been reviewed by 19 different authorities in the field. It covers a lot of territory, discussing amongst other things not only pain management research, but also the intersection of current treatment and “opioid use disorder” (another name for addiction to these drugs), some dangerous trends in our drug epidemic, and some suggested strategies, including:
- The Need for a Systems Approach,
- Strategies for Restricting Supply,
- Strategies for Influencing Prescribing Practices,
- Strategies for Reducing Demand,
- Strategies for Reducing Harm
Here and now, I felt it appropriate to comment briefly on where the bulky compendium and Dr. Price’s work cross paths — “Non-Opioid Pharmacologic Treatments.” Dr. Price’s combination of herbs is not a pharmaceutical, not a drug, but the Report discusses a lot of alternatives to opioids. They mention, of course, NSAIDs, commenting favorably on their use in certain cases compared to or in combination with opioids and discussing the advantages and disadvantages of aspirin. Other non-opioid treatment they briefly mention: antidepressants, anticonvulsants, capsaicin [the principal ingredient in hot chili peppers], local anesthetics, clonidine, ketamine, cannabinoids, and naltrexone.
Other “Interventional Pain Therapies” the Report mentions include steroid and other epidural injections.
Finally, there are “Non-pharmacologic Treatments.” Those mentioned include acupuncture; massage, chiropractic, and osteopathic manipulation; physical therapy and exercise; cognitive-behavioral therapy; mindfulness meditation; placebo analgesia; and education on self-management [learning to manage one’s own symptoms.]
I would like to commend the authors on reaching out to alternative therapies, or at least acknowledging their existence.
But there is still a noticeable treatment gap or vacuum. What about non-drug treatment? What about herbs and vitamins? Yes, they’ve got chili pepper concentrate. They reach out to addictive and abused drugs such as clonidine and ketamine and even to cannabinoids. But what about vitamins, minerals, and herbal combinations, favored by so many intelligent people across the United States and the world? Tumbleweeds roll across the dusty desert of their absence in this compendium.
Hence, Dr. Price’s non-drug, herbal formulation Bio-Relieve. It may be, and I believe, it truly promises to be an important contribution to this vital field. I hope, besides our informal, friendly interview and discussion here that it will receive the attention it deserves. Dr. Stephen Price and others trying like him to treat pain completely outside the opiate and opioid realm deserve all the support they can get. Not only can people be saved from lives in pain with or without addiction, but their very lives can be saved. Perhaps, the ongoing disintegration of social structure traceable to drug abuse and trafficking may hopefully soon be abbreviated and one day reversed.
1. “The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy,” Art Van Zee, M.D., Am J Public Health. 2009 February; 99(2): 221–227. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2622774/