Powerful painkillers do little to improve patients’ daily functioning, finds the American Academy of Neurology in a new position statement on opioid painkillers for chronic pain not related to cancer. Written by Dr. Gary Franklin, research professor in the departments of occupational and environmental health sciences and neurology at the University of Washington, the paper outlines the growing epidemic of overdose deaths—most of them unintentional—linked to opioid use. It concludes that in the majority of these cases, pain killers may ease some pain but fall short of truly improving patients’ health. Coupled with the potential hazards of addiction and overdose, the Academy says that doctors should be looking for other ways to help these patients manage their pain.
In the 1940s, opioid-based narcotics like opium and heroin were popular drugs of abuse, which lead to strict controls being put into place to curb their use. Regulations existed to control who could prescribe opioids and at what doses; breaches to the regulations could lead to a loss of your medical license or criminal prosecution.
Many physicians feared the repercussions, and thus may have under-prescribed such medications, even in cases where theyre called for, such as in late-stage cancer pain.
Decades later, in the 1990s, successful lobbying by pharmaceutical makers led to changes in the opioid regulations, such that doctors couldnt be penalized for prescribing them.
American Academy of Neurology: Opioids Not for Non-Cancer Chronic Pain
The American Academy of Neurology has released a new position statement on opioids, highlighting the problems of overuse. Since policies changed in the late 1990s, over 100,000 people have died, directly or indirectly, from prescribed opioids in the …
Beyond that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking pills only as directed, whether they're prescription or not. Afterward, discard whatever is leftover. Having them gone eliminates future temptation, as well as easy access for friends and family. In fact, 55 percent of people who abuse prescription pain pills are those who crowdsource, finds the CDC.
Most importantly, when pain strikes, know that there are pill-free ways to find relief. Massages, acupuncture, and even exercise have been proven to aid various types of pain. We're willing to bet it's better on your wallet, too.
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