AP analysis shows dramatic increase in prescription med abuse; Arizona Pain Specialists responds

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A recent analysis from journalists at the Associated Press shows dramatic increases in the abuse of two common prescription medications – oxycodone and hydrocodone. Abuse of the drugs has been tied to overdose deaths, burglary of pharmacies and increased crime nationally. Paul Lynch, MD, and Tory McJunkin, MD – founders of Arizona Pain Specialists – say while the news isn’t shocking, prescription pain medication abuse is destructive.

“We see patients daily whose lives have been turned upside down due to prescription pain medication abuse,” says Lynch. “Because we believe in treating each patient like we would our mom and dad, we think it’s critical to find a way to minimize the risk associated with opioid medications. Rather than default to large doses of medication we fee it is important to help patients find relief from their pain using a comprehensive, integrated approach that embraces the, physiological, social and psychological impact chronic pain can have.”

McJunkin says most people are unaware of the long-term effects of prescription pain medications – how even the healthiest person can be impacted.

“We see patients at Arizona Pain Specialists every day who are seeking help who simply have not been educated on the risks of these medications,” he says. “Prescribing opioids is something our physicians do with the utmost care, making sure to track patient’s progress and test for possible abuse. This includes having patients sign an opioid agreement and having our providers adhere to a 12-step opioid protocol. The results have been impressive. Some 52% of Arizona Pain Specialist patients are completely taken off opioid medications, while another 69% have a reduction in opioid dosing with our care.”

The AP analysis showed a sixteenfold increase of sales of oxycodone drugs in some states. The latest data shows 14,800 overdose deaths were reported in 2008, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration report 69 tons of pure oxycodone and 42 tons of pure hydrocodone were dispensed nationally in 2010.

Joe Carlon, CEO of Arizona Pain Specialists, says “The impact on our communities is profound. According to the CDC more people now die each year from drug related overdoses than motor vehicle accidents. Think about that for a second.” He believes, however, there is a groundswell of support for tackling this public health problem. “This issue, like most other complex issues, requires a multi-faceted solution that involves public education and advocacy, physician-leadership, solid research and legal support for a change in behavior. We have an opportunity to save people’s lives and Arizona Pain would like to be at the forefront of that effort. We believe we are.”

Prescription pain addiction is an issue across the economic spectrum in the US – with Appalachia to affluent suburbs showing an increase of drug abuse. AP research examining zip codes and sales per capita show a dramatic increase in pain pill use near military bases and Veterans Affairs hospitals. Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and New Mexico in particular were shown to have dramatic increases in the sales of oxycodone.

For more information on Arizona Pain Specialists, visit arizonapain.com.

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Melanie Ross