Opioid overdoses are now the leading cause of death in Americans under 50 years old. Opioids are commonly prescribed for pain and include such medications as Percocet, OxyContin, Vicodin, codeine and fentanyl. Not only has there been a large increase in opioid-related fatalities, prescriptions for opioids have quadrupled since 1999. President Trump recently appointed a commission for the opioid crisis and on August 10, 2017 declared the opioid epidemic as a state of national emergency. In a White House report issued by the commission, it was revealed that Americans consume more opioids than any other country in the world. The amount of opioids prescribed in 2015 was enough to medicate every American for 3 weeks around the clock. According to Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Maryland, 38 percent of adults in the U.S. were prescribed an opioid drug in 2015.  Even with this shocking information, opioid prescriptions and opioid overdoses continue to rise.

1 in 12 Doctors Rewarded For Pushing Opioid Pain Pills

drug money

Even though more people than ever are dying from opioid drug overdoses, pharmaceutical companies are rewarding doctors for prescribing these pain pills. Researchers at Boston Medical Center found that between August 2013 and December 2015 more than $46 million was paid out by pharmaceutical companies to more than 68,000 physicians for pushing narcotic pain pills. Family physicians received the largest number of payments. It should come as no surprise that the states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, including Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey, recorded the most payments to doctors. Other pain relief medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, were much less pushed and promoted.

The Opioid Epidemic—Fatal Overdoses Continue to Rise

overdose rates

It would seem that the more pain pills that are consumed, there would be less pain. If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, the increase consumption of pain pills has not reduced the level of pain in our country. Since 1999, the rate of opioid prescriptions has quadrupled, as well as the occurrence of fatal overdoses. Currently 91 Americans die of an overdose of opioid pain pills everyday, and this number is steadily growing month by month, year by year. It is imperative that we not only control the amount of opioids that are prescribed and consumed but address the underlying cause of why so many people suffer with chronic pain and illness. The underlying cause of chronic pain needs to be explored and addressed individually, as each person will have different underlying causes. This is where true healthcare and wellness reside.

DUI—Drug-Related Fatalities Outnumber Alcohol-Related Fatalities

Just as alcohol affects reaction time, judgment and alertness, opioids can have a similar effect. A report was recently released by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility found that of fatally-injured drivers during 2015, the number that tested positive for drugs (prescription and illegal) outnumbered those who tested positive for alcohol. Of those tested, 43% had drugs in their systems, while 37% tested positive for alcohol. Drug-impaired driving has become a significant issue. Even if the drug is legally prescribed, careful assessment should be taken as to how this may affect your ability to drive.

Drug-Free Pain Management

There are many safe, effective tools and strategies to help with pain, whether it is acute or chronic. Physicians are being urged to exhaust non-drug pain treatments before reaching for the prescription pad and doling out the pain pills. Here are some safe, natural options you can use to avoid the side effects, sometimes fatal, that can happen with prescription pain pills.

  • Herbals—There are a combination of herbs/spices that can help with pain and inflammation. Some of my favorites include boswellia, ginger, turmeric, and celery seed.

  • Digestive Enzymes—When certain digestive enzymes are taken on an empty stomach, they enter directly into the bloodstream and start to breakdown inflammation. Some of the most commonly used include bromelain, papain and trypsin.

  • Optimize Omega 3:Omega 6 Ratios—Most people consume an overabundance of omega-6 essential fatty acids while not receiving adequate omega-3’s fueling the inflammatory pathways throughout the body. A fatty acid profile can be performed with a simple finger-prick test to determine your ratios.

  • Deep Tissue Laser Therapy—Class 4 Lasers have been shown to be very effective at reducing pain and inflammation, while promoting healing at the cellular level. Some people notice significant pain relief in less than 5 minutes.

  • Acupuncture—This time-tested healing are has been proven to significantly reduce pain very safely and effectively.

  • Chiropractic—Many studies have demonstrated that chiropractic care is not onlysafer, but is less expensive than traditional medical care.

  • Massage—Massage has been shown to help with many types of pain as well as promoting an overall sense of relaxation.

  • Exercise—There are many different options to choose from when it comes to exercise. Whether it’s going for a walk or bike ride, yoga or tai-chi, pool exercise or swimming, find something you enjoy doing.