Addiction to prescription pain killers has become an increasingly deadly epidemic in this country. The number of deaths from these drugs is almost triple the amount of deaths from other prescription medications, and the number of overdose deaths is at an all-time high. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for doctors in an effort to get this problem under control by limiting the number of prescriptions written for these potentially dangerous drugs.
The pain killers the CDC are referring to include OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet. These medications are considered opioids, and are related to heroin. Over the past two decades the U.S has seen a surge in opioid prescriptions and the CDC warns these medications are as addictive as heroin. The facts reinforce the CDC’s concerns:
- In 1991, doctors wrote 76 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication. In 2011 that number had reached 219 million.
- Opioids are now the most prescribed medications nationwide and net close to $2 billion a year in sales.
- In 2013, 1.9 million Americans had either abused or become dependent on prescription opioids.
- In 2014, there were close to 33% more deaths from these drugs than deaths caused by road accidents.
The CDC is targeting doctors, specifically primary care physicians, who account for nearly half of the prescriptions written. While the agency does not have the authority to regulate medicine, many doctors are expected to follow the guidelines which include:
- Starting patients on other pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and using treatments such as ice or exercise therapy.
- Talking to patients about expectations regarding pain relief. Sometimes being 100% pain-free is not attainable.
- Using a low dose of an opioid for a short period of time. Prescriptions should be for three days and no more than seven days.
- Discussing the risks of long-term use, as patients could build up a tolerance to the dosage and seek alternative ways to cope with the pain.
- Researching tracking systems to ensure patients are not having prescriptions written by multiple physicians.
The CDC acknowledges patients who are in the final stages of life or undergoing cancer treatment do not fall under these guidelines. For the rest of us, it is important to understand that opioids do not actually relieve pain. They block the signals sent to the brain which alert the body that you are in pain. Without these signals, you are unaware of how much pain you are actually experiencing. This may sound ideal but what if you were having a heart attack? Think of what would happen if you did not feel any of the symptoms and did not seek treatment.
Prescription medication can help us but also harm us. If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with an illness or suffered an injury due to a physician over prescribing medication, you have rights. Contact an experienced attorney at Finz & Finz, P.C., to help you stand up to the medical professionals who put you in harm’s way.