When you talk to physicians who treat chronic pain patients, the conversation often turns to pain medication.
A report this month from the Centers for Disease Control will tell you why.
The CDC found a 400% increase in deaths from prescription narcotics over the past decade. Not surprisingly it coincides with a fourfold increase in the number of prescriptions written for powerful painkillers.
Dr. Melisa Estes of Jupiter, Florida is concerned but not surprised about the trend.
“I’ve had patients tell me that all they want is pain pills. Those patients generally don’t agree with my philosophy in managing pain,” said Dr. Estes. “I prefer to minimize opiate pain medication while treating a patient because I believe a multidimensional approach to pain management is the most effective.”
In 2008, the most recent year for which the CDC has statistics, there were over 20,000 overdose deaths from prescription drugs. Of those, nearly 15,000 were from narcotic painkillers.
“Prescription overdoes are epidemic in the United States,” says Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC.
Dr. Estes thinks she knows why.
“Here is southern Florida there has been so much in the media regarding ‘pill mills’. Unfortunately, those patients may receive nothing more than prescriptions for potential addictive opiates,” Dr. Estes pointed out.
Over the weekend, the physician leadership of the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM) announced plans to roll-out a new education initiative: “Safe Opioid Prescribing: Reversing the Trends.” The first seminar will be held in Palm Springs, California in February.
“We have been deeply concerned about the serious public health problem of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription medications. The Safe Opioid Prescribing program is one way we are actively seeking to make a difference in this issue by sharing our expertise with other clinicians, who may not be as aware of the most relevant information in prescribing and the practice of pain medicine,” AAPM President Perry G. Fine, MD said.
For Dr. Estes and other pain management specialists, the key often is getting the patient to listen to alternatives. Pain Management involves a lot more than just pain medication.
“It’s best when patients listen to the alternatives. There are many ways to treat the pain and the conditions that are generating the pain. Often exercise, weight loss, physical therapy and electrotherapy may be the most effective and safest way for the patients to get better, said Dr. Estes, who is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in addition to Pain Management.
“I’m not sure that all patients realize and respect that pain medication like oxycontin and hydrocodone are very powerful medicines. It is easy, in fact it is too easy, to become dependent on them in a very short period of time,” she added.
Info: Dr. Melisa Estes http://www.pboi.com/physicians/melisa-estes/