Have you ever been prescribed a painkiller? Did the doctor tell you that opioids like Persoset, Vicatin and Fentanyl, while effective in the short term, can become highly addictive? Did you think that it couldn’t happen to you?
The recent death of the legendary singer Prince from what has been described as an accidental overdose of Fentanyl has once again raised questions about the safety of these commonly prescribed medications?
Dr. Anna Lembke, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University Medical Center, wrote a compelling opinion piece in The New York Daily News in which she advocates for a consumer campaign to correct the following myths:
“First and foremost, that opioid painkillers are not addictive, as long as they are prescribed by a doctor. Some studies show that as many as a quarter of patients taking prescription opiods prescribed by a doctor will get addicted.”
“The second myth is that no dose is too high. We now know that the risks associated with opioid painkillers increase with increasing dose and duration of exposure.”
“The third myth is that opioids are effective for chronic pain. Opioids are a great treatment for pain in the very short term, but due to a process called neuroadaptation, they stop working over time.”
Some hospitals are already taking action to reduce their use of opioids as painkillers. NY Times writer, Jan Hoffman, points out that since last January, St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center’s emergency department in Patterson, New Jersey “has been using opioids only as a last resort. For patients with common types of acute pain–migraines, kidney stones, sciatica, fractures, doctors first try alternate regimens that include nonnarcotic transfusion, and injections, ultrasound guided nerve blocks, laughing gas, even “energy healing” and a wandering harpist.”
It’s a step in the right direction considering the following sobering statistics from the Centers for Disease Control:
“Overdose deaths involving prescription opiods have quadrupled since 1999. And so have sales of these prescription drugs From 1999 to 2014 more than 165,000 people have died from overdoses related to prescription opiods.”
As Dr. Lembke emphasizes: “Casualties are piling up. Education must start now.”