CDC publishes alarming stats on opioid painkillers, and suggests drug-free options

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Here’s some alarming information published online recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), spotlighting the lethal epidemic of opioid painkiller prescribing and importance of appropriate preventive action by federal and state bodies. Included online are several methods to prevent overprescribing and increase patients’ accessibility to effective, drug-free treatment options for pain relief. Chiropractic care, of course, has been providing a drug-free option for pain relief for more than 100 years.

But first, here are the statistics, as they appeared on the CDC website:

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Each day, 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers in the US.   “Prescription painkillers” refers to opioid or narcotic pain relievers, including drugs such as Vicodin (hydrocodone+acetaminophen), OxyContin (oxycodone), Opana (oxymorphone), and methadone.

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Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.

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Note that 10 of highest prescribing states for painkillers are in the South.

According to the CDC:

Health issues that cause people pain don’t vary much from place to place—not enough to explain why, in 2012, health care providers in the highest-prescribing state wrote almost 3 times as many opioid painkiller prescriptions per person as those in the lowest prescribing state in the US. Or why there are twice as many painkiller prescriptions per person in the U.S. as in Canada. Data suggest that where health care providers practice influences how they prescribe. Higher prescribing of painkillers is associated with more overdose deaths. More can be done at every level to prevent overprescribing while ensuring patients’ access to safe, effective pain treatment. Changes at the state level show particular promise.

The CDC suggests that states can:
– Consider ways to increase use of prescription drug monitoring programs, which are state-run databases that track prescriptions for painkillers and can help find problems in overprescribing. Use of these programs is greater when they make data available in real-time, are universal (used by all prescribers for all controlled substances), and are actively managed (for example, send alerts to prescribers when problems are identified).

– Consider policy options (including laws and regulation) relating to pain clinics (facilities that specialize in pain treatment) to reduce prescribing practices that are risky to patients.