10 Things You Need to Know About Prescription Pain Killers Now

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Opioid pain medications are frequently prescribed drugs for conditions such as back, neck, knee, shoulder and post-surgical pain, just to name a few. Unfortunately, many people do not know much about these medications, which include:

  • Morphine
  • Codeine
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycontin
  • Fentanyl
  • Dilaudid
  • Demerol
  • Percocet
  • Vicadin
  • Lortab
  • Norco

Here are the top 10 things you need to know about opioid pain medication.

  1. Opioid pain medications are strong narcotics that are only moderately effective at treating pain but come with several severe side effects including addiction and potential death due to overdose.
  2. Opioids are most effective when used in the short term (5 days or less) as tolerance builds quickly and patients become rapidly addicted.
  3. Despite the ineffectiveness of these medications and their serious side effects, the rate of prescription and use continues to rise. In 2012, 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication were given by health care providers. This is enough for every adult in the United States to have at least one bottle of pills.
  4. In 2013 the number one cause of injury death was drug overdose. While this includes drugs other than opioid pain medication, many experts agree that the increase in opioid prescriptions has significantly increased the number of drug overdoses, as accidental overdose of these medications occurs easily and frequently. In fact, 61% of drug overdoses occurred from opioid medications.
  5. Opioids are becoming one of the most abused street drugs as adolescents steal the medications from their parents’ medicine cabinet and use them to get high. When used in this capacity, opioids are even more dangerous.
  6. Most people taking opioid pain medication are not “druggies”. Most individuals suffer from common conditions such as back pain, but because they are not adequately informed of the long term side-effects of opioids, or the ineffectiveness of these medications, they often spiral into a cycle of long term pain without relief, accompanied by mild to moderate addiction and a host of other side effects that only worsen their pain.
  7. The government wants to do something about the overuse of these medications, but has failed to do so yet. President Obama has proposed a $1.1 billion program to address this, but earlier this week rejected a plan from state governors that would have worked towards the same result. As a result, any plans are currently stalled.
  8. A lack of alternative medicinal treatments contributes to the continued use of opioids.  Currently, non-opioid prescription pain medications are relatively rare.
  9. Over the counter pain medications such as Ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen (Aleve) and aspirin are demonstrating long term effectiveness greater than opioid medication. OTC meds have their own set of side effects including stomach irritation, liver disease and cardiovascular complication, but these side effects are significantly less common than those with opioids.
  10. Conservative treatment such as physical therapy has been shown to be more effective at managing conditions such as arthritis and low back pain than opioid pain medication. For those already taking opioids physical therapy can help reduce the need for these drugs.
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