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…).
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.