We’ll kick off with a story a recent news report coming out of CDC. They just released a recent report and basically said everyday 40 Americans are dying from prescription pain killer abuse. You know huge numbers. We’re talking about 15,000 adults dying from a prescription pain abuse, pain medication abuse every singly year. That number has tripled in the last 10 years from where it was back in 1999. Most recent figures coming in from 2008-2009.
So what are we looking at? What causes this problem? Well some of it is from irresponsible prescribing from some physicians and some people that are point honestly writing prescriptions for money so that they can pay their own bills and they don’t care who they give the prescription to. Some of the other things just have to be related to people finding these pain pills and taking them. A lot of times I talk to people and parents in my area and say “what do you have in your medicine cabinet? Do you know what you have in there?” The average person doesn’t use all their medications when they get pain medications. Not everyone is addicted to Percocet or Vicodin or OxyContin but they just leave it sitting in the medicine cabinet because they might need something for pain sometime and it may be nice to hang on to it. They have a few pills left. What happens when the baby sitter comes over and she goes in and sees the pain pills sitting in there and shop to the back of the medicine cabinet and maybe you’ll never notice that it’s missing.
There’s a lot of different ways people can get a hold of prescription pain pills and abuse them. There’s a lot of things we can do in the EMS sector to kind of help to manage that. Be aware of what’s going on in your community, what are more prevalent? Some areas use different drugs more so than others. Be aware of that and understand what to look at. You know medications like Percocet isn’t just a prescription pain medication that they are dealing with. It might be that medication contains something else like acetaminophen and overdosing on that doesn’t just have an opioid overdose effect but we have the potential for a liver failure and death related to acetaminophen overdose.
So you really need to kind of start to understand what’s being used in your area. Utilize your poison control centers. Utilize your local resources at the hospital. Pain management professionals like your pain management nurses and doctors really know what’s going on in the community and they are not the ones that are illegally prescribing, they are the ones that are helping people with legitimate problems trying to manage their pain through a numerous different types of things not just drugs but they do have a handle on what’s out there and kind of see these patients. We need to look at this. We also need to treat it like it is. It is an illness, it is an addiction, it can be cured, it can be managed and dealt with through call step programs, through use of alternative medications to wean them off of the drug, there are a lot of things that can be done so we need to treat these patients who do abuse these medications appropriately. Get them the help they need and try to hook them up with a caring resource. It starts with us being a caring resource.
This article has been featured in the news segment of the MedicCast podcast episode Pain Management Champions and Episode 289.