Not a single day passes by without hearing something about the opioid epidemic that is rampant across the US. On March 1st, in fact, the Maryland Governor declared a state of emergency and pledged $50M over the next five years to address the crisis. Unfortunately, most people generally think about Heroin as the most deadly opioid, but did you know that prescription pain relievers kill more people than Heroin each year? These legal prescriptions include oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and fentanyl among others. So why are these prescription pain relievers so common and so deadly?
According to the American College of Physicians, “More than 30% of Americans have some form of acute or chronic pain. Among older adults, the prevalence of chronic pain is more than 40%. Given the prevalence of chronic pain and its often disabling effects, it is not surprising that opioid analgesics are now the most commonly prescribed class of medications in the United States”.
Sadly, that fact is not without consequences. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that “between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012 and an estimated 467,000 addicted to heroin.” It is widely believed that Heroin addiction begins with prescription opioid addiction.
Just 3 years later, by 2015, drug overdose became the “leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses”. “20,101 of those overdose deaths were related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths were related to heroin”. If you do the math, that’s approximately six out of ten drug overdoses that are related to opioids. According to the CDC, over 165,000 people have died from prescription opioid overdoses since 1999.
The sad truth about prescription opioids however, may be that although they are widely prescribed by the medical community, they don’t actually help some of the most common causes of chronic pain: low back pain being one of the primary causes. In fact, recent guidelines published in the Annals of Internal Medicine by the American College of Physicians (ACP) recommend that before relying on medications for low back pain (LBP), patients should be using drug free remedies such as physical therapy and other comfort measures. In fact, after reviewing numerous studies on the effectiveness of treatment of LBP, it was determined that opioids such as oxycontin or Vicodin should only be used as a last resort.
It was further noted by the ACP that for milder less specific LBP with no known cause lasting less than 12 weeks simple measures like heat, massage, acupuncture and manipulation are helpful, whereas for pain lasting longer than 12 weeks other options like exercise, yoga, relaxation and meditative techniques can be helpful as well. All of which, as you can see, are drug-free.
Another very interesting fact determined by the ACP was that the studies also showed that even Acetaminophen is NOT effective and they are therefore no longer recommending it’s use for low back pain either. They are, however, continuing to advise the use of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen or in some situations muscle relaxants. When LBP persists, slightly stronger medications may include Cymbalta or tramadol, but rarely opioids. In fact, there is apparently little evidence that opioids help relieve LBP at all.
Despite that, according to the CDC. “On an average day in the U.S.: More than 650,000 opioid prescriptions are dispensed; 3,900 people initiate nonmedical use of prescription opioids; 580 people initiate heroin use; 78 people die from an opioid-related overdose.”
So I ask, why continue the use of prescription opioids, and why not limit how they can be prescribed?
Do your part in fighting the opioid epidemic. Tell your doctor or health care provider about Hero Healers: The Sciatica Solution For Men. Ask them to stand on the side of drug free health care when it comes to addressing low back and leg pain.