Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
20 Aug

Americans Popping Pain Pills in Record Numbers

yay candy!Q: What weighs 200,000 pounds?

A: Our annual painkiller consumption.

Painkiller use has boomed by 88% in less than a decade. There are a few reasonable explanations: Gulf War and Iraq War veterans, aging Baby Boomers. But even accounting for these numbers, painkiller use – I say abuse – is an obvious problem. Of course, some “mainstream” docs will talk about improved diagnosis and treatment rates, but I believe the real issue here is that we’re failing to see the value in pain. No, no, I’m not talking about masochism. I’m talking about the vital role pain plays in healing and health. Just as the body evolved the fear response to survive, so too for pain.

Pain used to be considered part of the healing process. Sure, pain hurts, but it’s not bad. You can thank the pharmaceutical industry’s aggressive and relentless marketing for shifting our perspective of pain as tool to pain as illness. A headache is an indicator of stress, or heck, too many martinis. A backache is a sign that you need to get up from that chair and exercise. Beyond that, pain is a sign that your body is doing what it’s supposed to do: heal what’s broken. No pain, no gain. Pain in and of itself is not a health problem – it’s a symptom. Treating pain after a surgery or injury is one thing. But treating chronic pain that’s a result of a poor lifestyle choice is ridiculous. When a child burns his finger on a hot stove, he knows not to touch the stove again. We don’t give the tot an ice cube and tell him to touch the stove again tomorrow.

But that’s exactly what we’re doing. If you don’t believe it, be aware that spending on marketing and advertising of painkillers (from hydrocodone – Vicodin – to oxycodone) has tripled since 1997. (Must be good to be Pharma: their profit margins are quadruple that of other Fortune 500’s.) Though I’m obviously not in favor of reliance on prescription drugs when lifestyle changes could be made instead, there’s a consequence of all this painkiller addiction that’s unfortunate: those who truly need help are facing even more of a health care nightmare than the average person (as if that were possible…).

Further Reading:

10 Dumbest Drugs

My Health Care Proposal

Source: LA Times

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  1. It’s so true. Our healthcare system has bought into the mantra that we deserve a life free from pain. Unfortunately, that comes at the expense of our health when we treat the pain, not the cause. It’s a funny thing … but when you treat / cure the cause, the pain goes away!

    Laser Evangelist wrote on August 20th, 2007
  2. Our health care system as a whole is a problem. We are supposedly the most advanced country in the world and the richest. Yet our elected officials do not see it fit to enact universal health care. I say that as taxpaying citizens of this country, we and our elected officials are pathetic. Universal health care is a right and responsibility, not a privilege.

    terry wrote on August 20th, 2007
  3. But they are all so colorful. Maybe it will become like the M&M Store and you will e able to personalize your Pain Killer.

    Seriously, I’m not sure how much Big Pharma makes when most of the Pain Killers prescribed are generics.

    On another note, Soma I do and Soma I don’t.

    Oxybeles wrote on August 20th, 2007
  4. I’ve been an ER RN for 18 years and let me tell you that the use of high dose narcotics in chronic and acute pain is going through the roof. A few years ago, we were told that pain is now the “Fifth Vital Sign.” I immediately told my superiors that pain is a symptom, not a sign. They disagreed. My colleagues, physicians and nurses, agree that we’re going to have an ugly mess when the hens come home to roost on this one and we’re already being proven correct. There has been one study, presented to the American Pain Society last month, that proved that even initial doses of narcotics will reduce a patient’s tolerance to pain and lowers the threshhold for the sensing of pain. I suspect that, in a few years, the studies will begin to show the harm being done by all these drugs, but it obviously won’t be found in Pharma funded studies. The great big fun begins when we create all the dependents and then cut them off. Won’t be pretty folks.

    Joe wrote on August 20th, 2007
  5. In the last 18 months I have had 2 outpatient surgeries, and both times I was prescribed 30 oxycodone for post surgery, and both times when I went back for my follow-up a week later, I was asked if I needed a refill. I just threw away the 56 oxycodone I had left.

    I do believe that there is a place for pain pills, but I also believe they are way over prescribed on the whole. Doctors are not doing us any favors as a society, maybe a little more tough love and suck it up is in order.

    Brian wrote on August 20th, 2007
  6. Joe, fascinating – thanks for sharing your insider perspective.

    Mark wrote on August 20th, 2007
  7. Wow, I only got 12 darvocets for my wisdom teeth surgery. I feel cheated. 😉

    (only took 2 anyway)

    Sara wrote on August 20th, 2007
  8. I am taking soma medication since last few months and Soma reduces my muscle pain gradually. Soma really helps me a lot. I usually buy Soma online from

    Soma wrote on September 15th, 2010
  9. Pain can also be caused by having too little cranial bones that literally squish the soft tissue together causing astigmatism, 2-faced facial bones, deviated septum, cramped sinus that forms lakes of fluids that constantly start sinus infections and prevent proper drainage, and the list goes on.

    Many people don’t know this…and wonder why their head hurts day in day out.

    When an unborn baby didnt get enough minerals and vitamins during pregnancy to lay down bone, this is what happens.
    Good indicator of lack of bone and formation is crowding of teeth.

    Suvetar wrote on April 16th, 2011

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