For those of you into math, that’s about 550 deaths per month, or more than a Boeing 747 could hold. Imagine the heat on the FAA if one was dropping out of the sky monthly. Would you fly?
For those of you following the Rantings, you can begin to guess that it is prescription opioids I’m talking about. Not just OxyContin and morphine, but also Percocet and Vicodin. They are handed out like candy in urgent care and the ER and concern has been raised to the equivalent of a Homeland Security threat level RED. Earlier this year, the FDA reached out to providers asking them to increase their training in the prescribing of this dangerous class of drugs.
If the FDA has to politely ask providers to better understand the use of these drugs (this IS, after all, the regulatory agency tasked with protecting the public), one has to assume that the education required to prescribe these drugs may be lacking.
Scary. And profoundly upsetting because I am, after all, a chiropractor. I can’t count how many times over the years that a patient came in for a problem that was resolved in a visit or two, and yet had been given opioids after an urgent care or ER visit. Completely avoidable had the patient been steered towards chiropractic treatment. We remain a profession at the red-headed-stepchild level and yet hold the answers to many of the ills in medicine today.
With that intro, we need to move on to this particular article, which highlights just how dangerous this class of drugs has become. Researchers looked at opioid deaths from 1999 to 2010 in women. Here’s what they found:
- Nearly 48,000 women died of prescription painkiller overdoses between 1999 and 2010.
- Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses increased over 400%, compared to 265% in men.
- For every woman who dies of a prescription painkiller overdose, 30 go to the ER for misuse or abuse.
Despite these numbers, I still have patients coming into my office every week who have been given prescriptions for this class of drugs. Much like the decades long delay that occurred to get pediatricians to stop giving antibiotics for ear infections, these statistics seem to be falling on deaf ears.
The next time a provider wants to given you a prescription of Percocet or Vicodin for some type of new-onset musculoskeletal disorder (neck pain, shoulder pain, low back pain…) but does NOT recommend seeing a chiropractor, maybe it’s time to find a new provider that keeps your best interests in mind.