With the overprescribing of prescription medications in this country there’s no wonder how we wound up in more than just an opioid epidemic. For years, pharmaceutical companies have misled the public. Running advertisements underplaying the true dangers of some of the most dangerous and addictive drugs currently on the market.
What We Did
Pharmaceutical companies promised cheap easy quick solutions to pain and mental disorders. They created drugs for kids, teens, and adults for mental problems and chronic pain without warning the patients that those drugs could be addictive. It finally came to light that these medications were extremely addictive. Drugs like OxyContin, Adderall or Concerta, Xanax or Klonpin were aggressively put onto the market without giving the public any warning of possible consequences. Parents were told certain medications could help their children “behave” and “get better grades in school” with just prescription.
Patients with chronic pain were given pills that did help in the moment, but caused problems like heightened tolerance and addiction. The problem was these prescriptions were highly addictive and denied those kids, teens, and adults with an accurate diagnosis. Over-prescribing medications without diagnosing each patient individually meant that the medications they may have needed went overlooked. They receive medications that do not address the actual problem at all. Which also leaves any actual disorder undiagnosed and not addressed.
What We Do Now
Unfortunately, a lot of these drugs can be effective for certain types of pain and other mental issues. Many patients need these types of medications, but doctors and the general public need to be much more careful and aware of what they are prescribed.
The CDC stepped up and provided guidelines for doctors and other medical professionals to help them navigate the way these medications should be prescribed. The CDC provided 4 key areas that prescribers can access on their website.
- Identify- This first step is identifying drug-seeking behavior. There are some patients that are at-risk for misuse, abuse, and/or addiction.
- Manage- Individualizing each diagnosis for the at-risk patients and coming up with alternative treatment plans for them.
- Educate- Create a way for patients to have access to a foundation of knowledge and information so they truly understand the risks associated with prescribed narcotics.
- For The Office- As the first place patients come into contact with these medications- provide any and all information that can be given to patients and patient’s families. Give them a guide and discuss with them how to navigate and evaluate the risks and benefits of serious mediations.
The CDC recommends, if possible, alternative treatment plans.
- Physical therapy – A physical therapist or physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation may be able to create an exercise program that helps you improve your ability to function and decreases your pain. Whirlpools, ultrasound and deep-muscle massages may also help.
- Acupuncture – You may find relief from acupuncture, in which very thin needles are inserted at different places in your skin to interrupt pain signals.
- Surgery – When other treatments aren’t effective, surgery can be performed to correct abnormalities in your body that may be responsible for your pain.
- Injections or nerve blocks – If you are having a muscle spasm or nerve pain, injections with local anesthetics or other medications can help short-circuit your pain.
The ways we have used opioids over the years has changed over and over again since their discovery. The consequences and risks have not. These drugs may be helpful, but they have to be taken as prescribed. Even then, people can end up addicted. In 2017, health care providers across the US wrote more than 191 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication—a rate of 58.7 prescriptions per 100 people. In that same year, more than 47,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.
This is a man made epidemic and there are people suffering and dying. Being addicted to drugs is not a fun and exciting lifestyle. It is painful. Those 191 million people that received those prescriptions in 2017 are our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, friends, the people we know and love. Yes, there are circumstances that taking pain medications may be appropriate.
However, if you notice yourself or someone you know starting to change things like their behavior, their personality, interacting with others less and less- reach out for yourself or say something to your loved one. Those 47,000 deaths in 2017 were not just the picture of what a junkie looks like on TV or the movies. They were people with family and friends.