Chronic Pain Could Lead to Prescription Painkiller Addiction

Americans With Chronic Pain May Take Unnecessary High Doses of Prescription Painkillers

chronic painA new federal report released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Monday, January 12th, reveals that, despite states cracking down on pill mills and drug-seeking behavior, prescriptions for painkillers and opioid drugs has still skyrocketed in recent years, which means that doctors treating patients with chronic pain could be unintentionally contributing to a drug addiction epidemic in the US.

The NIH study showed there are major gaps in how physicians and clinicians treat chronic pain problems. Their research, which began in September last year, showed that doctors are often ill-prepared with the latest findings on prescription painkillers and chronic pain problems, and that the medical community at large has not investigated better treatment methods outside of prescription painkillers.

“The prevalence of chronic pain and the increasing use of opioids have created a ‘silent epidemic’ of distress, disability, and danger to a large percentage of Americans,” the report authors write. “The overriding question is: Are we, as a nation, approaching management of chronic pain in the best possible manner that maximizes effectiveness and minimizes harm?”

In 2011, around 17,000 people died from an overdose of prescription painkillers.

And, unlike previous drug addiction epidemics, victims of prescription painkiller addiction are often white, middle class or upper middle class, with health insurance.

“[Past epidemics] made it easier for the public and even healthcare professionals to think about people with addiction as ‘those people,’” says Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the chief medical officer of the rehabilitation nonprofit Phoenix House. “Hopefully that’s changing.”

“[Providers] are sometimes quick to label patients as ‘drug-seeking’ or as ‘addicts’ who overestimate their pain,” the authors write. “Some physicians ‘fire’ patients for increasing their dose or for merely voicing concerns about their pain management.”

The NIH writers suggested that clinicians often do not have good rules to follow when treating individual pain, which can have both physical and emotional roots. Other treatments for chronic pain, like physical therapy, antidepressants or antianxiety medication, and alternative or complimentary therapies should be considered along with prescription painkiller prescriptions. This could help wean patients off prescription painkillers once their pain management has stabilized, or could prevent patients from needing increasingly higher doses over a short period of time.

“The lack of scientific evidence on effectiveness and harms of long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain is clear and is in striking contrast to its widespread use for this condition and the large increase in prescription opioid-related overdoses,” wrote Roger Chou, MD, of Oregon Health and Science University, and colleagues.

Meanwhile, some states like Kentucky are taking the prescription painkiller epidemic seriously, and have filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for misrepresentation of the safely of their prescription painkillers.

The South Carolina Prescription Monitoring Program could help reduce prescription drug abuse and drug-seeking behaviors like doctor-shopping, in which patients visit multiple doctors complaining of chronic pain so that they can get multiple prescriptions for narcotics or sedatives. The program can also can track how many prescriptions doctors write, which could prevent pill mills or illegal drug activity.

The Strom Law Firm Protects Against Prescription Drug Abuse Charges

Being arrested for prescription drug abuse in South Carolina is something that can be devastating financially and emotionally, and can have long-lasting personal and professional consequences. We understand what you are going through, and we are here to help. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.

Leave a Reply