The Opioid Crisis — A Case of Mass Homicide?

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • The inappropriate treatment approach to back pain and post-surgical pain from tonsillectomies and wisdom teeth removal are driving forces behind the opioid epidemic
  • Insurance claims data reveal 60% of children between the ages of 1 and 18 with private insurance fill one or more opioid prescriptions after surgical tonsil removal. Dentists wrote 18.1 million prescriptions for opioids in 2017
  • Research shows opioids (including morphine, Vicodin, oxycodone and fentanyl) fail to control moderate to severe pain any better than over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen
  • The American College of Physicians’ guideline for low back pain call for the use of heat, massage, acupuncture or chiropractic adjustments as first-line treatments. When drugs are desired, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxants should be used
  • While clinical practice guidelines call for nonpharmacological intervention for back pain, most insurance plans avoid paying for such treatments, favoring opioid treatment instead

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Prescription Drugs Responsible for more Deaths than Traffic Accidents, Study Finds

Every 14 minutes, a person is killed by prescription drugs — and unlike most other causes of preventable death, which have been on the decline for years, medication-induced deaths are on the upswing across the US. According to a recent analysis conducted by the Los Angeles Times (LA Times), drug-induced deaths have become so prevalent that their average yearly total now exceeds the number of deaths caused by traffic accidents.

It is truly a sad day in the world when the very medications prescribed for treating disease are one of the leading causes of death, including among young children. And based on data retrieved by the LA Times, the number of drug fatalities has doubled within the past ten years, as legal drugs Continue reading

Opioids Linked to Higher Risk of Pneumonia in Older Adults

Risks highest for long-acting opioids and new use, says Group Health study

Opioids – a class of medicines commonly given for pain — were associated with a higher risk of pneumonia in a study of 3,061 adults, aged 65 to 94, e-published in advance of publication in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study from researchers at Group Health Research Institute and the University of Washington (UW) also found that benzodiazepines, which are drugs generally given for insomnia and anxiety, did not affect pneumonia risk.

“Pneumonia is a common infection that can have serious consequences in older adults,” said study leader Sascha Dublin, MD, Ph.D, a Group Health Research Institute assistant investigator and Group Health primary care physician.

“Opioids and benzodiazepines work in different ways, but both can decrease the breathing rate. Both are also sedatives, which can increase the risk of aspiration.” Aspiration is inhaling material (including saliva or food particles) from the mouth into the lungs, which can lead to pneumonia.

A 2009 study estimated that two million Americans Continue reading