Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Dangerous Prescription Painkiller Addictions - Opioids

The United States has an addiction problem.  No, it is not just teens and young adults who are affected; it also affects Baby Boomers and the growing epidemic of addiction and overdoses related to opioid prescription pain medications like morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Risks of Prescription Painkiller Addictions

There are a number of risks associated with these opioid prescription pain medications.  To make matters worse, many doctors are unaware of the dangers and, consequently, the patients are not well-informed, either.  By the time people are addicted, it is difficult for them to get off the drugs.  Here are some of the facts that people should know ... especially if a doctor suggested an opioid medication for them or someone they love:

*  Between 1993 and 2012, there was a 500% increase in the rate of hospitalizations for overdoses from prescription pain pills among people between the ages of 45 and 85.

*  At the same time, the number of overdose deaths rose 700% for adults between the ages of 55 and 64.

*  The highest number of deaths was in people between the ages of 45 and 54.  Their rate was actually four times the overdose death rate for teens and young adults!  This statistic alone should terrify any adult who believes these drugs will be safe for them to take, because they were prescribed by a physician.

*  The death rate may be even higher than we realize because so many deaths in the elderly are attributed to natural causes, especially when the person has multiple health issues.  However, the real cause may have been an accidental overdose or the inability of the liver and kidneys to clear multiple medications from the body.

*  In 2012, 8% of adults ages 40 or older reported that they had taken an opioid painkiller in the past 30 days.  (That is correct.  According to AARP, during a single month, approximately one out of twelve people over the age of 40 had taken an opioid painkiller.)

Side Effects of Prescription Opioid Painkillers

What many people do not realize when they begin taking these drugs is that there are a number of dangerous side effects, in addition to the risk of becoming addicted and/or dying of an overdose (as though that was not bad enough)!

Opioid drugs also result in:

*  Increased rate of heart attacks
*  Increase in number of falls and related fractures
*  Grogginess or foggy thinking
*  Constipation
*  Sexual dysfunction
*  The drugs become less effective at controlling chronic pain over time
*  The drugs may actually make people more sensitive to pain
*  It can be very difficult to stop using the drugs.  (ABC News reported in a news special in March, 2016 that 80% of new heroin users start out on opioid painkillers and, when the opioids are removed, the patients seek out an affordable substitute ... heroin.)

How to Use Opioid Pain Medications Safely

If you are suffering from acute pain after surgery or at the end of your life, it is possible that your doctor may prescribe one of these medications for you.  If this happens and you decide to use these medications, here is how to make sure you are using them safely:

*  Try taking only one-quarter to one-half of the normal dose.

*  Let your doctor know about other medications you are taking, especially benzodiazepines which may be prescribed for anxiety or insomnia.

*  Do not mix opioids with alcohol or other medications, which could trigger an overdose.

*  Make sure your doctor is monitoring you frequently, up to once a month.  They need to order frequent urine tests to measure the opiate levels in your system.

*  Be realistic about your pain.  Painkillers, including opioids, cannot eliminate all pain completely.  In fact, studies show that painkillers can only reduce chronic pain by 30%, at the most.  Patients should try less risky alternative treatments such as physical therapy, stress management, yoga, acupuncture, massage, etc.

*  Protect your loved ones by keeping all prescription painkillers locked up in a special cabinet or lockbox.  Thieves and even teenage relatives could be tempted to steal them and either use or sell them.

If you would like additional information on medical issues affecting Baby Boomers, where to retire, financial planning, family relationships, travel and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page for links to hundreds of additional articles.

Sources:

"46 Americans Die Each Day from Painkiller ODs," AARP Bulletin, September, 2015, pg. 6.

http://www.medpagetoday.com/Geriatrics/PainManagement/32967

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