Opioids/Medications

Don’t let drug company marketing negatively influence your health

By on September 15th, 2016

When it comes to prescribing narcotic pain medications, I’m shocked when I recount how different things are now compared to when I was in my training. On two occasions in the past year , I received a call from the coroner telling me that my patient has overdosed on pain medication. It doesn’t feel any better that it wasn’t me who was prescribing medication to them, one a 35 year  and the other a 50ish year old male both suffering from chronic low back pain and one of them suffering from major depression. Three months ago, I received a third call. A patient of mine in his 60’s, only one week after a surgery that I performed, also died of an overdosed. We had him on the same levels of pain medication that he was on before surgery and in the hospital. His sister found him stuck between his bed and the nightstand. She thinks that he took a handful of medication and must have stumbled into and become stuck and suffocated.

Why is this happening? It’s not like the incidence of injuries or chronic pain has increased exponentially. It’s not like we are doing more extensive surgery – in fact the majority of the surgery I perform currently is minimally invasive. It’s because we have many, many more patients who are hooked on strong narcotic medications and slide down the spiral of addiction sometimes to their death.

When I was in my training in the late 80’s and early 90’s, we used strong narcotic medication, but much less than currently. In the 1990’s, there was an exponential increase in opioid sales. The American Pain Society campaigned to make pain the ‘fifth vital sign’. This focus and marketing campaign resulted in the US utilizing 99% of the worlds supply of hydrocodone ($9 billion/year). In 2007, unintentional drug overdoses were the second leading cause of accidental deaths with over 50,000 deaths/year, and in some places surpass motor vehicle accidents.

My advice to you is not to get lured into a quick fix with narcotic pain medication. If you sustain a severe injury with intolerable pain, take narcotics only for a short period of time. Enhance your own body’s ‘narcotic’ which is called endorphins, with exercise.

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Kamshad Raiszadeh, M.D.

Dr. Raiszadeh's completed medical school at UC San Francisco, orthopedic surgery residency at UC Davis and his Pediatric and Adult Spine Fellowship at the Hospital for Joint Diseases/NYU in New York City. He has 20 years of experience with the broad range of spine surgery including minimally invasive surgery, complex spinal disorders such as scoliosis and kyphosis, and cervical spine disorders. During this 20 years he has noticed a dramatic increase in patients turning to surgery for treatment of neck and low back pain, but many of them not getting their desired long-term result. He therefore became increasingly interested in improvement and standardization of non-operative treatment. By developing the best aspects of non-operative treatment in an atmosphere of empowerment to maximize the body’s own healing capacity, he noticed that many fewer patients required surgery, and the ones who underwent surgery had much better long term results.

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