From Dr. Waldron: Our ‘silent epidemic’ of overusing prescription painkillers

pills and handI wanted to share the following article from Dr. Robert Braile, a Georgia chiropractor who produces a regular newsletter for the chiropractic profession. It clearly demonstrates why it’s important for patients to FIRST pursue drug-free solutions to chronic pain before taking opiate painkillers, which can have debilitating side effects.

Prescription Painkillers’ Overuse Has Become Silent Epidemic – US Warns
The headline above is from a January 16, 2015, article in the U.S. edition of the British news publication The Guardian. The article is based on a position paper released on January 13, 2015, titled, “National Institutes of Health Pathways to Prevention Workshop: The Role of Opioids in the Treatment of Chronic Pain.”

The Guardian article begins by reporting that in 2012, Americans received nearly 260 million prescriptions for opiate painkillers. This high number stands in contrast to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) statement that there is “scant” research supporting the use of these drugs for chronic pain. The NIH paper is based on the work of a seven member panel of experts who studied the use of opioids in medicine. “Chronic pain affects an estimated 100 million Americans, or one-third of the U.S. population.”

One of the key factors the panel found was that there were no studies comparing the use of opioid therapy or no opioid therapy versus placebo for evaluating long-term outcomes related to pain, function, or quality of life. “Unfortunately, a lot of these drugs are approved on the basis of short-term trials,” stated Roger Chou, MD, associate professor, medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, in an interview he gave to Medscape News.

In the paper summary, the panel states, “The rise in the number of Americans with chronic pain and the concurrent increase in the use of opioids to treat this pain have created a situation where large numbers of Americans are receiving suboptimal care.” They continue, “At the root of the problem is the inadequate knowledge about the best approaches to treat various types of pain, balancing the effectiveness with the potential for harm, as well as a dysfunctional health care delivery system that encourages clinicians to prescribe the easiest rather than the best approach for addressing pain.”

Perhaps the most disturbing comment from the paper speaks to the daily experience of a patient who is visiting a doctor for chronic pain. The panel notes, “Particularly striking to the panel was the realization that evidence is insufficient for every clinical decision that a provider needs to make about the use of opioids for chronic pain, leaving the provider to rely on his or her own clinical experience.”

An article titled, “Mandatory Use of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs” in the January 26, 2015, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) looked at the problem. It reported that, “The rate of fatal prescription drug overdoses involving opioids almost quadrupled from 1.4 deaths/100,000 people in 1999 to 5.4 deaths/100,000 people in 2011.”

“Chiropractic represents a drugless approach to health,” notes Dr. Michael McLean, president of the International Chiropractors Association. “The problem is not just the use of these dangerous and powerful drugs, the problem is a culture that looks to eliminating the symptoms rather that searching for the underlying cause of pain and other health issues.”

If you are among the one-third of Americans who suffer from chronic pain, we may be able to help you regain your health — without potentially dangerous drugs or unnecessary surgery. Call our office today at 425-778-9600 for a consultation.

— Dr. Waldron

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