Huge increase in prescription painkiller overdoses
Just last week in my office I had a discussion with a young mom about her back pain medication. Her belief was, "...the pill doesn't work like it used to, so now I need two." We had a nice discussion about the dangers of prescription painkillers, and how our bodies deal with them. As it turned out, some days she is actually taking 3 pills at a time.
Often people are confused by the word prescription. They think it means the pill has been tested and authorized to be safe. This is partially correct, but prescription simply is a fancy medical word that means "order". The doctor is giving an order to the pharmacy for the patient to get a controlled substance.
A prescribed medication is actually a balancing act of positive versus negative side effects. Your back hurts so the goal is that the correct dose of medication alleviates the pain. This is the positive side effect, the desired side effect. There are also negative side effects with every prescription drug. Some of the negative side effects may be small, such as mild constipation, others may be severe, such as potential liver damage or increased likelihood of heart disease.
This is where the balancing act comes in. Let's say you are taking a mild antidepressant. It may help by lifting your spirits a little, the positive; as well as making you a little thirsty throughout the day, the negative. Now the question for you, in consultation with your doctor is, does the benefit outweigh the negative? Are you getting more positive than negative? It is often difficult to balance all the positives with all the negatives. Unfortunately it is difficult to truly know all the positive and negative side effects of any medication we take.
In early July 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released new statistics concerning prescription pain killers and overdoses. the numbers were alarming.
*"Prescription painkillers" refers to opioid or narcotic pain relievers, including drugs such as Vicodin (hydrocodone), OxyContin (oxycodone), Opana (oxymorphone), and methadone.
About 18 women die every day of a prescription painkiller overdose in the US, more than 6,600 deaths in 2010. Prescription painkiller overdoses are an under-recognized and growing problem for women.
Although men are still more likely to die of prescription painkiller overdoses (more than 10,000 deaths in 2010), the gap between men and women is closing. This rise relates closely to increased prescribing of these drugs during the past decade. Health care providers can help improve the way painkillers are prescribed, while making sure women have access to safe, effective pain treatment.
Prescription painkiller overdose deaths are a growing problem among women.
SOURCE: National Vital Statistics System, 1999-2010 (deaths include suicides)
The CDC chart shows huge changes:
Read the complete CDC report
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