Prescription pain medications have surpassed heroin and cocaine as the leading cause of fatal overdoses per CDC statistics in 2009. 7 million people have admitted to the non-medical use of prescription pain medication. 10% of kids have admitted to using narcotics before the 12th grade, and 59% of those children stated that they received the pills from a family member or friend.
It is shocking to hear these statistics and they tell the real story of our society and drug abuse. The stage is being set to have our children exposed and potentially becoming dependent on controlled substances. Who is ultimately responsible for the deaths due to overdose? Where can we intervene to provide a safer community and avoid unnecessary deaths? I feel that it all boils down to the source. Family medicine physicians, in addition to just about all medical specialists play a role in providing such medications to the general population, typically for recovery from surgeries and chronic pain control. It is our responsibility to determine what is safe and potentially harmful for our patients.
My mission as a family physician is to help educate patients of this growing problem. Limiting the use of controlled substances like Hydrocodone (narcotic pain medication) and Alprazolam (Benzodiazipine for anxiety) can help minimize overuse and misuse of controlled substances. Thankfully, there are numerous alternative options for pain control, such as using anti-inflammatories and non-narcotic pain medication.
It is quite easy to become overwhelmed with stress from the fast-paced and demanding world in which we live today. Promoting a well-rounded lifestyle is an important part of leading a healthy life, however, this cannot be achieved simply by popping pills. Exercise can also be a great way of allowing the body to naturally release endorphins which can treat pain. Individuals should spend quality time with friends and family which can help reduce stressors from school and/or work. Incorporating holistic healing by spending time outdoors and meditation are also excellent ways in which one can rid their body of toxins.
Personally, I have taken a step back to reevaluate my life and determine the things that make me happy. I have found yoga to be relaxing, rejuvenating and cleansing. Taking care of my family makes me feel part of a community and loved. Taking my dogs to the park and watching them run through the water brings a smile to my face and makes me appreciate the small things in life. Whatever brings you happiness, find it and hold onto it.
Please remember, no pill will ever be able to provide you with total happiness sustained over the long-term.