New Report from the Centers of Disease Control Indicates Overdose Deaths in Women with Painkilling Drugs are Often the Problem, Not the Solution

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Harvard-trained, board certified Pain Management Expert Reza Ghorbani, MD, ABIPP, FIPP discusses the epidemic of women overdosing on pain killers.

A July 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control on women dying from prescription painkiller overdoses are shocking. However, not really surprising to medical professionals who see these powerful drugs, called opioids, abused everyday.

Even so, when reading that the death rate for this group has exploded-- five times greater than it was in 1999 (6,631 women died from overdosing on narcotic like drugs in 2010 alone), it was a wake up call, or at least it should be.

As a pain management specialist Dr. Reza Ghorbani runs his own clinic in suburban Washington, DC, and writing prescriptions for pain killers isn’t the first thing he does, but a default option if other less addictive interventions don’t work. Opioids just make the brain forget about pain; they don’t cure it.

Yes, women who come to see him are in pain, but it’s not just a physical affliction. Dr. Ghorbani hears about the competing demands of work and parenthood and the general sense that they’re supporting the world, but the world isn’t supporting them.

While men are still more likely to die of a drug related overdose, women have a physiological predisposition, which makes them more susceptible. Their bodies are smaller; making it more difficult to metabolize these drugs. Yet, at the same time the amount they do absorb collects in fatty tissue. This creates a double whammy lowering the threshold for a toxic reaction.

There is no drug cure for being in a world of hurt, but he believe that pain can, indeed, must be better managed. One pharmacological method is to try anti-inflammatory drugs—there are many—that get at the core mechanism driving the body’s pain response and they’re not addicting.

Dr. Reza Ghorbani also had great success with natural pain relief products that have demonstrated their power as anti-inflammatories for centuries. Their safety and efficacy rival many conventional medications.

Other “modalities” are physical therapy, and, yes psychological counseling to promote a healthier lifestyle, since the mind and body have to be in harmony for treatment to succeed.

Finally, Dr. Ghorbani says, he believe there’s a profound difference between pain treatment and pain management. Many of his colleagues are more willing to write a prescription for painkillers than deal with the complex issues driving the patient visit. There is fine line between prescribing and enabling.

It’s time to make that a bright yellow line.

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Samuel Edwards
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