Opiate Painkillers

Suffering Vs Addiction – Snowballing of Opiate Crisis in the West

A new study published in British Journal of General Practice conducted by University College London Hospital shows that the deaths due to opioid pain-killer drugs have almost doubled in last 10 years (from 500 in 2001 to 900 in 2011).  Increase in addictions to painkillers in the UK is now mimicking the patterns in the US.

The worst thing is that majority – around 66% of the population hooked onto addictive drugs are women!  Typically in 50s and 60s.

Even the time for which the patients are using opiate-based drugs has increased by 60% – as opposed to a short term prescription, the way it should be.

The most common opiate drug prescribed in UK is Tramadol, as it was not seen as a strong opiate.  However, it has been found contributing to most deaths in the last few years.

“It is not seen as a strong opiate although actually I think it really is,” said Mordecai. “It is the first port of call for troublesome pain but it can become quite addictive.”

Tramadol is implicated in a rising number of deaths due to drug misuse – in Northern Ireland up from 9% to 40% in 2011. In England it was found responsible for 132 deaths in 2010 but 240 in 2014.

In the US, however, the impact of Opiate addiction and the death caused by that is even more severe.  Every day over 115 American die due to overdose of opiates.  Addiction to prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl has now assumed a serious national crisis!  The economic cost of the misuse and addiction to opiates is already to the tune of $78.5 billion a year in US!

Overdose Deaths Involving Opioids, United States, 2000–2015. Deaths per 100,000 population.

It is not easy to find a resolution as the basis of this whole problem is quite complex.  Let us see what is at the root of the prescription quagmire.

Suffering or Addiction: Dilemma for Doctors

Recently, the Attorney General of Oklahoma charged a doctor, Regan Nichols, with second-degree murder when five of her patients died due to overdose.  In the sentence the AG said:

“Nichols prescribed patients, who entrusted their well-being to her, a horrifyingly excessive amount of opioid medications. Nichols’ blatant disregard for the lives of her patients is unconscionable.”

But is that only true of Nichols?

Apparently not.

There is a constant fight within the minds of most doctors today on how to best treat a patient.  And the dilemmas that hit a doctor are:

  1. Let the patient suffer pain or give the painkiller?
  2. When the patient develops high tolerance, then is it fine to increase the dosage and therefore, the risk of addiction?

One doctor shares her thoughts on it in a very insightful article.

The choice between Suffering and Addiction is a tough one to make for anyone.

Should we all as a society learn to deal with pain a bit more strongly?  Or should we give into opiate drugs and simply hurtle towards damning addiction?

The answer lies in transformation of how we live as human beings.