It is no secret that America has a drug problem, but you may be surprised to learn about the particular drug problem which we will discuss here. In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs” intending to achieve the "prevention of new addicts, and the rehabilitation of those who are addicted." Toward that end, we’ve since spent a trillion dollars in the war against purveyors of illicit drugs. However, rather than focusing exclusively on illegal drug cartels, statistics suggest that attention must also be directed toward the white-coat/pharmaceutical cartel which dominates American health care; legal prescription opioid drugs now account for more deaths each year than cocaine and heroin deaths combined.
Common names for prescription opioid drugs include Percocet, OxyContin, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone and Fentanyl. Addiction to these prescription opioid drugs has become so common that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration categorize the problem as an epidemic and a public health crisis. Although the United States represents less than 5 percent of the world’s population, we consume 80 percent of the global opioid supply, including 99 percent of the world’s Hydrocodone.
The New England Journal of Medicine reports that the annual number of deaths from opioid overdose exceeds the number of deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents. The CDC links these opioid-related deaths with the rise in opioid prescriptions over the past several years; in fact, the number of annual opioid prescriptions in the United States is enough to supply every American adult with a bottle of pills. In addition to opioid addiction and overdose-related deaths, common complications of opioid use include drowsiness, increased risk of falls and fractures, constipation and nausea. The World Psychology journal reports that opioid use is associated with a 92 percent increased risk of committing murder. Yikes!
In addition to widespread use for acute pain, the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that “opioids are also now prescribed more frequently to treat chronic conditions including musculoskeletal pain of the spine and extremities.” The British Medical Journal (BMJ) reports that “opioid prescription for low back pain has increased” and that “more than half of regular opioid users report back pain.” Despite this pervasive use, opioid drugs do not reduce out-of-work time for injured workers and they do not seem to improve functional outcomes for patients with acute pain. Regarding opioid use for chronic pain, the BMJ reports that there is very little research on the long-term benefit of such treatment, but there is “growing evidence of harm associated with” use of opioids for chronic pain. In fact, opioid use has been associated with worse clinical outcomes in musculoskeletal conditions. Opioids may actually cause increased pain (hyperalgesia) in some patients after several months of use.
In response to the opioid crisis, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has resolved to “attack the problem from every angle.” HHS asserts that using nonpharmocologic approaches to pain treatment is an “urgent priority.” Well, welcome to the party, HHS … I’m sorry you’re late … but I’m so happy that you’ve finally arrived. Chiropractic physicians have always offered nonpharmocologic approaches to health care. According to Consumer Reports, chiropractors are the highest-rated health care practitioners for low-back pain treatment and ranked above physical therapists and medical physicians of any specialty. In fact, chiropractic outperformed all other back pain treatments, including prescription drugs, massage, yoga, Pilates and over-the-counter medications.
Other health care organizations are also catching on. The Annals of Internal Medicine in 2007 published guidelines issued jointly by The American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society recommending that spinal manipulation should be used for back pain patients who do not improve with self-care options (such as rest and ice). The centerpiece in chiropractic care of the spine is known as the spinal adjustment or spinal manipulation.
The Joint Commission accredits all major hospital systems in the United States and certifies more than 20,000 American health care organizations and programs. In 2015, the Joint Commission updated its pain management standard to include chiropractic services. Likewise, as of 2016, the Oregon Health Plan will prioritize chiropractic and other nonpharmocologic approaches over pain medication for back pain patients.
Chiropractic physicians offer conservative, integrative and effective treatment strategies that help many people reduce their reliance on addictive pain medication and return to more normal activity. This common-sense approach is also catching on with the general public as more than 33.6 million Americans sought chiropractic services in 2014. Chiropractic services have also been shown to be more cost-effective; opting for a conservative approach at the onset of pain can be cost saving for individual patients and for the health care system. Dr. Anthony Hamm, president of the American Chiropractic Association, summarizes, “Chiropractic physicians are well positioned to play a vital role in the conservative management of acute and chronic pain.”
Dr. R. Todd Shaver is a chiropractic physician at Shaver Chiropractic & Natural Medicine. As a distinguished fellow of chiropractic biophysics, Dr. Shaver utilizes spinal adjustment and other chiropractic physical medicine procedures to address injury and pain and to promote wellness. He is Wilmington’s only chiropractic physician to have achieved specialty status (D.I.C.C.P.) in chiropractic pediatrics and prenatal care. To learn more, go to www.shavernaturalmedicine.com, call (910) 452-5555, or contact his office at [email protected].
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