the spikes in prescription drug abuse rates caputured by this study are dramatic, pervasive and deeply disturbing.
Scottsdale, AZ (Vocus) July 16, 2010
According to a Reuters article released July 15th, there has been a 400 percent increase in Americans treated for prescription pain medication abuse in the last 10 years. Gil Kerlikowske, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is quoted in the article as saying “the spikes in prescription drug abuse rates caputured by this study are dramatic, pervasive and deeply disturbing.” The physicians at Arizona Pain Specialists, a Scottsdale, Arizona based pain management clinic couldn’t agree more, as they daily take alternative measures to prevent the prescription of pain medications.
The Reuters article states that 56 percent of those treated for prescription pain medication abuse received them from a friend or relative in possession of a prescription, meaning these medications have been obtained legally, but redistributed illegally. This epidemic is an American phenomenon, as 80 percent of the world’s pain medications are prescribed in a country that only holds 4 percent of the world population. This throws up a red flag on the prescribing practices of physicians concerning prescription pain medications – it’s happening too frequently. No age group, social class or geographic location is excluded, according to the Reuters article, this is truly a national problem.
“We get patients off prescription pain medications,” Dr. Paul Lynch, co-founder and practicing physician at Arizona Pain Specialists states. “A recent review of our prescribing patterns show that 69 percent of patients referred to Arizona Pain Specialists received a reduction in their pain medication prescription, while 52 percent of patients referred stopped taking prescription pain medications completely. With the use of comprehensive care, we are able to have excellent outcomes treating severe pain without the use of prescription pain medications.”
Arizona Pain Specialists’ conservative prescribing practices must be utilized by more physicians. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are 14,000 deaths due to prescription pain medications out of the 8 million patients currently taking prescription pain medications in the United States each year. That means that for every 571 patients prescribed pain medications, someone dies from that medication, and not necessarily the patient – sometimes it’s their children or a family member that has illegally taken the medication.
“As part of our on-going efforts to achieve medical excellence, we have performed a recent analysis of our patient population, which showed that we currently treat 20,000 patients in our practice,” Dr. Tory McJunkin, co-founder and practicing physician at Arizona Pain Specialists says. “Had every one of our patients been on prescription pain medications, utilizing the statistical model, we should have expected approximately 35 prescription pain medication related deaths; we have had zero pain medication related deaths.”
“We utilize a 12 Step Protocol for those patients who do need to use prescription pain medications, which drastically reduces the risks associated with long-term prescription pain medication use. The dose of medications is also important to look at,” McJunkin continues. “In our practice, patients that are referred to us are taking as much 300-400 milligrams of a morphine-type medication per day. If it is determined that it is efficacious to keep the patient on a form of prescription pain medication, we practice a more much more conservative method – we get them down 60 milligrams per day on average.”
During devastating economic times, the cost associated with treating overdoses is an expense we are ill-equipped to handle. Each year, the financial impact of treating overdoses in the Phoenix-metro area is a cost of $350 million; nationally, it’s an astounding $26 billion dollars annually.
These statistics, however, can change. The medical community must take responsibility and find alternatives to prescribing pain medications. Arizona Pain Specialists seems to have the solution figured out.
“Prescription pain medication overdoses are an epidemic within this country,” Lynch says. “There are so many other ways to treat pain, and we strive to do that every day in our comprehensive pain management practice. We have made this topic a priority for our practice and hope that others in the medical community begin to embrace our medical model to put a stop to prescription pain medication related abuse and overdoses.”