Chronic Pain, Opioid Abuse, Suicide – Are They Connected?

There have been many publications on the abuse of painkillers, such as opioid abuse, written in the last few years. The United States has a massive drug problem, and it is not going away. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, more Americans now use prescription opioids, than smoke cigarettes. This makes sense when you consider, prescriptions for opioid painkillers rose by 300 percent between 2000 and 2009, and Americans now use 80 percent of all the opioids sold worldwide.

In case you didn’t catch that last phrase: Americans Now Use 80% of all the Opioids Sold Worldwide!

The majority of Opioids (methadone, oxycodone (such as OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®)), are prescribed for pain.

Last time I checked, a CHEMICAL has never fixed a PHYSICAL problem!

In fact, here are some National and Colorado-specific statistics:

The Rise of Prescription Opioid Abuse: Per Peer Assistance Services

In 2012, over 2.5 million people aged 12 or older reported developing an opioid use disorder in the past year, related to prescription pain medication abuse, or heroin abuse.

Opiate-Related treatment admission rates were 400% higher in 2010 than in 2000, and treatment admission rates increased every year within that 10-year time frame.

Deaths related to opioid analgesic use increased 313% over the past decade.

In Colorado
In 2011, Colorado ranked second highest in the nation of nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers among people aged 12 and older.
In 2012, more than twice as many people in Colorado died from poisoning due to opioid analgesics than from drunk-driving related crashes.
In 2012, 36% of all drug poisoning deaths in Colorado involved prescription opioids.
In 2012, 21% of all drug poisoning hospitalizations in Colorado involved prescription opioids.
Sadly, this problem has only gotten worse in the past 5 years.
There are safe options to treat pain, but education — both among doctors and patients — is sorely lacking. This is why Downtown’s Healthcare needs your help, and we hope you’ll do your part in spreading the word.

Far too many people in the prime of their lives are losing it to painkiller addiction, and often they simply had no idea a prescription painkiller for a temporary injury or pain, would send them into the throes of drug addiction.

How bad is it?
Drug Overdoses Now 9th Leading Cause of Death in the US
In 2014, prescription drug overdoses, a majority of which involved some type of opioid, killed more Americans than car crashes (49,714 compared to 32,675). This held true for 2015 as well, despite 2015 being hailed as the deadliest driving year since 2008.

In all, 38,300 Americans died in car crashes in 2015 — a sharp rise thought to be related to a combination of cheaper gas prices, hence increased travel, and using smartphones while driving. A rise in drug overdoses also suddenly placed in the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S.

In 2015, 52,404 Americans died from drug overdoses; 33,091 of them involved an opioid and nearly half of those, 15,281, were by prescription. Meanwhile, kidney disease, listed as the 9th leading cause of death on the CDC’s top 10 list, killed 48,146.

The CDC does not include drug overdoses on this list, but if they did, drug overdoses (63 percent of which are opioids), would replace kidney disease as the 9th leading cause of death as of 2015, inching its way toward the 8th slot, currently occupied by respiratory complications such as pneumonia, which took 55,227 lives in 2015.

It gets worse…
According to Eric Newhouse, “More than 50 percent of all veterans enrolled and receiving care at VHA (Veterans Health Administration) are affected by chronic pain, which is a much higher rate than in the general population,” said a 2014 VA report. “Veterans who suffer from chronic pain also experience much higher rates of other co-morbidities (post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, traumatic brain injury), and socioeconomic dynamics (disability, joblessness) that may contribute to the challenges of pain management when treated by opioids.”

The Center for Investigative Reporting, using data provided under the Freedom of Information Act, said prescriptions for four opioids (hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine) surged by 270 percent between 2000 and 2012, leading to addictions, and a fatal overdose rate that was twice the national average.

VA Secretary Robert Mcdonald stated: “We owe it to the nation’s veterans to help them end their dependence on opioids, and break the downward spiral that all too often leads to homeless, prison or suicide.”

In fact A recent study by the VA estimated that 20 veterans killed themselves each day in 2014.

The negative and fatal effects of opioid use are not confined to any one segment of the population. Veterans, celebrities like Heath Ledger, Brittany Murphy, Michael Jackson, Chris Cornell, even the recent DUI arrest of Tiger Woods, and every day folks like you and me are impacted by the harmful effects of these prescription drugs.

It does not take a rocket scientist to look at this scene, and realize there is a serious problem. And this problem is not going away.

Who is profiting from this? Big Pharma!

Who writes big checks to Medical schools? Big Pharma!

Who writes and sponsors many of the Medical books that our medical providers learn from? Big Pharma!

There are non-chemical physical treatments that have repeatedly proven to successfully help people with physical ailments. Yet we as a society continue to mask the problem with drugs.

Downtown’s Healthcare’s purpose has always been and will continue to be to help people get off of harmful addictive medications, and to avoid dangerous, unnecessary surgery.

Help us help others! Who do you know that is sufferring from chronic pain? Many people just do not know there are other options for treatment other than a pill.

Our office can help by providing:

Physical Medicine
Physical Rehabilitation
Regenerative Therapy

The United States has seen a disturbing increase in suicides for over the past decade. In 2014, nearly 43,000 Americans committed suicide, over twice the number of deaths linked to accidental opioid overdoses.

Most often suicides are blamed on depression, mental illness, financial problems, or drug and alcohol abuse. No statistics are kept on how many Americans kill themselves due to untreated or poorly treated pain, but there are a growing number of anecdotal reports of patients killing themselves after having their prescription opioids reduced or eliminated.

Look, there is a smoking gun here! We prescribe more painkillers than any other country in the world! As stated earlier in this article, Americans now use 80 percent of all the opioids sold worldwide. I am not saying that there is not a time and place for medications. There is! However, we must give more options to people with chronic pain, than just giving them a pill that can be highly addictive.

We know we can help those with chronic pain. We know we can help people feel better, so they are able to get off of, or at least decrease the amount of pain medication they are on. But we need your help! Please let others know, and share this blog. Together we can make a difference!

Gary Rademacher D.C., CCST

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