Friday, 13 September 2013

The Reality Of Pain Killer Abuse?

Today's post from (see link below) is a newspaper article referring to a talk by Dr. P. Tennent Slack who presented his “Prescription Drug Abuse: A Nationwide Epidemic,”  to a women's meeting in the city. Chronic pain patients (including many neuropathy patients) who protest at the restrictions being placed on their medication issue and at being lumped together with addicts and criminal abusers, may sometimes forget that the media hysteria on this subject is often based on tragic stories. There is no doubt that pain killers (especially opiates) and their use and abuse, need to be looked at in some detail and the control system by doctors needs to be re-focussed to avoid problems like those mentioned here but that's an administrative and funding problem that the genuine patient's treatment should not affect. The last fifty years have seen strong painkillers issued far too easily and often on repeat prescription but without the necessary follow up to ensure that they're being used properly. Throw criminality into the mix and it becomes an explosive political issue that lies far away from the reality for genuine chronic pain sufferers. The system needs to be improved but that shouldn't always mean gut political reactions and unfair laws which would deprive those in need, as is happening in many areas at the moment.

Event opens eyes on abuse of pain killers
Women outpace men in addiction, physician tells luncheon crowd

By Emma Witman
POSTED: September 5, 2013 

About 100 women attended WomenSource’s monthly luncheon event of blackened chicken, rice and lemon squares served with a serious topic: prescription drug abuse.

Held at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center, Gainesville physician Dr. P. Tennent Slack presented his “Prescription Drug Abuse: A Nationwide Epidemic,” talk, an epidemic that is increasingly affecting women in staggering numbers.

“Women are being sucked into this vortex at an alarming rate,” Slack said.

The pain killers oxycodone and hydrocodone are the most harmful prescription drugs being abused, he said, although other types are problematic as well, including anxiety medications classified as benzodiazepines, such as Xanax.

Another class of controlled substance — amphetamines used for treating ADD/ADHD, like Adderall — are heavily abused but rarely deadly, he said.

The number of women losing their lives to prescription drugs rose 400 percent between 1999 and 2010, the Centers for Disease Control reported, compared to 250 percent for men.

“The prescription opioid group leads in the cause of accidental death by poisoning, including heroin and cocaine,” Slack said. “Prescription drugs have a much steeper impact on the public than illegal drugs because prescriptions are so ubiquitous.”

According to the CDC, 18 women die per day from accidental opioid overdose.

Slack explained why opioids are “uniquely deadly.”

“Opioids have a uniquely deadly side-effect profile. They profoundly depress the drive to breathe, profoundly depress the ability to cough,” he said.

Slack said the problem started in 2000 when a major push for aggressive pain treatment began.

“There was aggressive marketing by manufacturers. Internet sales rose. All of this happened in a weak regulatory environment,” he said. “Once the faucet was turned on, it immediately revealed itself as a problem.”

Another staggering statistic Slack presented had to do with American consumption. Traditionally disproportionate in its medicinal use, America is no different when it comes to pain medications — the U.S. is less than 5 percent of the world’s population but consumed 80 percent of the worlds opioid supply and 99 percent of the worlds hydrocodone supply, he said.

“It’s a quick-fix culture,” Slack offered as a partial explanation.

When it came time for Dallas Gay to tell his devastating story of losing his 21-year-old grandson Jeffrey to opioid addition, several women were moved to tears.

Gay warned people not to become an “unintentional drug supplier.” The U.S. Department of Health reported that 70 percent of drugs diverted for abuse come from family and friends.

Since losing his grandson in October 2012, Gay, a former Northeast Georgia Medical Center board member, devotes his time to prevention and eduction of the public on prescription drug abuse. He serves as co-chairman of the Think About It campaign, a statewide initiative launched by the Medical Association of Georgia Foundation to combat prescription drug abuse and misuse in Georgia.

Addiction is a disease, Gay said, that “society tends to look down upon.” Yet medically, the neurological part of addiction resides in the most “primal” part of the human brain, Slack explained.

“Addiction is deeply rooted, paired with the same drive as our need for shelter,” he said. “Opioids enable an addict to feel a way that they’ve never felt before. Once they feel that way, they cannot go back, and experience a loss of control.”

“None of us are truly immune from being a victim of this disease,” Gay said.

The Think About It campaign is heading up a pilot program to increase education in doctors’ offices and pharmacies on the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

Educational brochures and posters are being rolled out in the next 30 days, Gay said, in hopes to educate as many patients as possible.

WomenSource program coordinator Laura Haynes said the biggest takeaway was to raise awareness of the issue and have women be part of the solution on behalf of their children, communities and themselves.

“It’s so alarming to see the increase in how women are being affected, so that’s our goal with these luncheons, to educate women on a topic that is not only a women’s issue, but health issue in general,” she said.

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