No one likes to be in pain, but our collective reliance on over-the-counter and prescription painkillers is quickly becoming cause for alarm. In 2010, more than 10,000 men and more than 6,600 women died from overdosing on painkillers, which is a 400 percent increase in female deaths and a 265 percent increase in male deaths over 1999 death rates.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 48,000 women died from overdosing on prescription painkillers in the years between 1999 and 2010. While men continue to be more likely to die from overdosing on these drugs, women are quickly catching up. The CDC reports that about 18 women are dying every day from this type of overdose. For each woman who dies, an additional 30 go the emergency room every day for prescription painkiller abuse.
Part of the problem is a significant increase in the rates at which health care providers are prescribing painkillers to patients. Additionally, monitoring programs currently in place do not always catch instances when patients are going to multiple doctors or pain clinics to obtain more of these drugs. Women experience higher rates of chronic pain and are often prescribed higher doses of painkillers for longer periods of time, which also increases the risk of overdose.
Pain can be debilitating and can make it impossible to complete daily tasks and enjoy life. When pain reaches this level, it may be necessary to turn to prescription drugs in order to find relief.
If you experience chronic pain, repeated headaches or other debilitating pain, here are five things you should do to keep your painkiller use under control:
1. Seek alternative pain-relief treatments that may help you limit or avoid the use of prescription pain medications. This may include acupuncture, acupressure, massage, chiropractic care, physical therapy, yoga or meditation.
2. Make sure your doctor is aware of all of the prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements you take before he or she prescribes pain medication.
3. Take prescription medications as directed, and do not increase the dose or frequency without talking to your doctor.
4. Know the symptoms of substance abuse, such as new or worsening issues in relationships or at work, feeling like you must have the drug to make it through the day, partaking in risky behaviors to obtain the drug, spending money meant for something else on the drug, or feeling as though you cannot stop using the drug.
5. Do not keep prescription painkillers in your medicine cabinet just in case you might need them later on. Properly dispose of any leftover pills so that you are not tempted to take them.
To learn more about the growing epidemic of prescription painkiller overdoses, you can read the full CDC report here.