Drug Use Eclipses Auto Accidents as Cause of Death in the United States
If you think this story isn’t relevant to you, keep reading. It’s time for people to start thinking about pain management in a whole new way.
At Monmouth Pain and Rehabilitation, we’re all about finding ways to manage pain with the fewest medications possible—and for a very good reason. Medications for pain management—analgesic drugs—are fueling a serious increase in drug-related deaths.
These deaths are not necessarily linked to hardcore drug addictions or accidental overdoses; many of them involve normal, everyday people who mistakenly believe that it’s safe to take some form of analgesic drug every day for long periods of time.
According to data for 2009, there were 33,808 auto-accident related deaths* whereas drugs were responsible for the deaths of 37,485 Americans**. What’s behind this surge in drug-related deaths? All signs point to the widespread use and abuse of prescription pain and anxiety medications that has become an obvious problem in this country over the past decade or so. These medications are now surpassing the types of illicit drugs we normally associate with drug deaths—drugs such as cocaine or meth or heroin. While most people would be more than wary of these illegal drugs—and rightly so—danger also lurks in medicine cabinets everywhere.
I think it’s easier to feel safe about a medication that is prescribed by a doctor (or that you can buy over-the-counter). This sense of security is both false and extremely dangerous.
At Monmouth Pain and Rehabilitation, we view painkiller use as a temporary, short-term method of relieving pain; it’s important for patients to be wary of physicians who do not share this viewpoint. The long-term use of any analgesic medication, or the use of analgesics in high doses, can cause serious damage to the body and even death. When I say this, I include both prescription and non-prescription drugs.
There are so many other ways of managing pain—when the pain management process is deliberate and well-planned, patients are never in danger of the abuse of pain medications. Our office provides such techniques as Epidural Steroid Injections, for example, to help patients begin the healing process by providing serious pain relief. We simultaneously provide acupuncture—a method of relieving pain that acts on the brain in the same way as opioid painkillers (morphine, percocet, vicodin, ect.). Physical therapy and chiropractic are there to provide actual methods of correcting the causes of pain, not simply covering them up.
The most popularly abused painkillers include fentanyl, oxycontin, and vicodin. These drugs are useful for the short-term relief of acute pain. Unfortunately, they are also extremely addictive. What’s worse is that they are even more dangerous when carelessly combined with other drugs, anxiety meds, and/or alcohol.
Let’s use acetaminophen as an example. Most people feel pretty good about Tylenol in general; you can buy this drug over-the-counter and they even provide a low-dose version for children and babies. If you can give a drug to a baby, it must be safe, right?
It may come as a surprise that acetaminophen is one of the leading causes of acute liver failure—in some years, it is the leading cause of acute liver failure—in this country. On average, acetaminophen poisonings cause nearly 60,000 ER visits, 26,000 hospitalizations and 500 liver-failure deaths per year. It is the number one reason that people call poison control centers.
It’s pretty easy to take too much acetaminophen. A patient may take a small dose of vicodin (hydrocone plus acetaminophen) and an over-the-counter dose of Nyquil (which also contains acetaminophen). Yet another pain patient may feel safe in taking a dose of acetaminophen before having a few drinks or while taking medication for anxiety (or worse, all three together).
Intentional or unintentional, innocuous or obviously dangerous—there are so many ways that drugs can be dangerous for our bodies. Why not take the time to learn safe methods of managing pain?
Monmouth Pain and Rehabilitation is a safe place to find serious and long-lasting relief from pain and disability. Our Red Bank rehabilitation office provides Monmouth County pain patients with various interventional procedures (including Epidural Steroid Injections for back pain/ Viscosupplementation for knee problems); physical therapy; chiropractors; and acupuncture. Contact our NJ pain management office if you are suffering from illness, pain, and/or restricted movement of any kind.
*National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
**The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
*** United States Food and Drug Administration: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/AdvisoryCommittee /CommitteesMeetingMaterials/Drugs/DrugSafetyandRiskManagementAdvisoryCommittee/UCM164897.pdf