Jessie Dennerline from New Roads Treatment discusses educating the public about painkiller addiction..
Overdose deaths have quadrupled since the late 1990's. More than 16,000 people die in the United States each year from overdoses of prescription opioid drugs, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Utah is ranked number 4 in the nation for prescription medication deaths. The CDC says that a dramatic increase in opioid prescriptions has led to a "skyrocketing" rate of overdose deaths.
There is debate over when and if doctors should be prescribing pain killers. Many addicts report that they were first exposed to pain pills due to a legitimate injury or surgery. A recent NPR poll said that 78% of those polled believe that addiction is related to taking pain killers and 53% believe depression is related to taking them.
Although most people know about the connection between pain killers and addiction, they take these drugs anyway when a doctor prescribes them, even if the pain is minor. I believe this is because we trust doctors to make our medical decisions for us, even if we know there are risks or feel unsure about taking them.
For this reason I believe we need to put pressure on the medical community to share some of the responsibility of educating people and protecting people from becoming addicted.
My proposal is:
1. Doctors do a proper risk assessment before prescribing any pain medication.
2. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists explain the risks of addiction and physical dependance when prescribing as well as withdrawal symptoms. A lot of people have pretty bad withdrawal symptoms from pain meds even after a short period of time. Some people mistake this for actual pain and therefore take more pain meds and increase their tolerance. Before they know it, they are completely addicted.
3. Medical community needs to respect people who refuse medications. Whether it's due to fear of addiction, relapse or any other reason, no one should feel like they have to take any pain medication ever.
4. Patient should share some of this responsibility as well. They should have some sort of accountability plan with family, especially if they are in recovery or really enjoy the feeling of being on pain killers.
5. Can go to Newroadstreatment.com or feduprally.org for more info on fighting the overdose epidemic.
When I had my daughter 6 months ago the nurses told me that I needed to take my pain meds so that I could heal better and take good care of my baby. I still refused them because I was breast feeding and I wasn't even in pain. It just bothered me that they were pressuring me so hard. I actually felt guilty for not taking them. At New Roads, we come across mothers who are addicted to pain meds and some of them report receiving them for the first time after child birth. It's very heart breaking. I didn't want to risk being one of those people or exposing my baby to those meds unless it was absolutely necessary.