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The Potential Dangers of Prescription Medications
Posted on Dec 31, 2012 | Tags: Daily Pain Tips, Chronic Pain

While prescription drugs can be helpful in dealing with chronic pain, they can also be dangerous when an overdose is taken. Research shows that prescription drug overdoses now claim more lives than heroin and cocaine combined. This has led to a doubling of drug-related deaths in the United States over the last decade. At The Pain Center of Arizona, our pain management specialists take overdoses very seriously, and aim to educate all of our patients on the dangers.

Health and law enforcement officials have focused on how OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and other potent pain and anxiety medications are obtained illegally. Most often these ways include pharmacy robberies or when teenagers raid their parents' medicine cabinets. Authorities have failed to recognize how often people overdose on medications prescribed for them by their doctors.

But it appears that doctors’ prescriptions are contributing to the increase in overdoses. Dr. Lynn Webster, president-elect of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, said many physicians lack an appreciation of how easily patients with chronic pain can become addicted to their medications, and how dangerous those drugs can be. Physicians who prescribe pain medications should screen patients for risk factors for addiction and then watch them closely to prevent abuse.

For many years, prescriptions for narcotic painkillers were limited mainly to cancer patients and those with a terminal illness. The prevailing view was that the risk of addiction outweighed any benefit for the great majority of patients whose conditions were not life-threatening. However, today, narcotic painkillers are among the most popular prescription drugs in the U.S.

Between 1999 and 2010, the use of painkillers quadrupled. Doctors write about 300 million prescriptions a year for painkillers, and hydrocodone is now the most commonly prescribed drug in the U.S., racing past the leading antibiotics and cholesterol medications. Meanwhile, older pain drugs such as morphine, codeine and Dilaudid found new life outside hospital wards and new pain drugs, such as fentanyl and Opana, were brought to market. OxyContin, a chemical cousin of heroin, had sales of more than $1 billion within a few years of its introduction. Narcotic pain relievers now cause or contribute to nearly 3 out of 4 prescription drug overdoses and about 15,500 deaths each year, according to the CDC. For every death, 32 people are treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal overdoses.

Here at The Pain Center of Arizona, we know the thought of overdosing on something that is supposed to help with the pain can be scary, but there are preventative steps one can take to help themselves stay off the course of addiction to prescriptions.

When visiting the doctor, provide a complete medical history and a description of the reason for the visit to ensure that the doctor understands the complaint and can prescribe appropriate medication.

If a doctor prescribes medicine, follow the directions for use carefully and learn about the effects that the drug could have, especially during the first few days during which the body is adapting to the medication.

Be aware of potential interactions with other drugs.

Do not increase or decrease doses or abruptly stop taking a drug without consulting a health care provider first.

Never use another person's prescription.

If you suffer from chronic pain due to any condition or injury, find hope at The Pain Center of Arizona! Our dedicated team of board certified pain management physicians will work with you to treat your pain, increase your functionality and quality of life, and get you back into life! We have locations across Arizona, including Phoenix, Anthem, Surprise, Mesa, Gilbert, Deer Valley, Paradise Valley, Scottsdale, and now Prescott and Tucson! We take multiple insurance plans; click here to see if we take yours! To make an appointment and take the first step toward getting back into life, call us today at 1-888-PAINCENTER. We hope to see you soon!

The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.

©Medical Marketing Solutions, 2012



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