Tags: Price | prescription | pain | reliever | addiction

Prince's Death Highlights Worsening Pain Med Crisis

Prince's Death Highlights Worsening Pain Med Crisis
(Copyright AP)

By    |   Thursday, 05 May 2016 03:32 PM EDT

Evidence is mounting that Prince’s death may have been an overdose of prescription medication he was taking to alleviate chronic pain, which is an all too-common problem in the U.S., a top doctor says.

“If Prince’s death turns out to be a prescription overdose, it would be a tragedy, but not such a surprise because this happens all too often. People taking these medications don’t mean to die, but they end up taking too much, and it’s easy to overdose,” Dr. Marc Leavey tells Newsmax Health.

Prince’s apparent dependence on prescription drugs stemmed from pain he suffered due to his frenetic performances, the New York Times says. But millions of Americans become dependent on these medications for various reasons, says Leavey, an internist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 47,055 such overdoses occurring in 2014. Of these deaths, 18,893 were due to prescription pain relievers, predominantly opioids, according to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Opiates are powerful drugs that include prescription oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine.

The agency estimates that 1.9 million of the 25.1 million Americans over the age of 12 who have a substance abuse problem are addicted to prescription pain relievers.

The problem has grown so great that Food and Drug Administration, calling it a “public health crisis, enacted new measures just this past March that included tougher warning labels to alert people to their dangers.

According to Leavey, the problem of chronic pain is enormous.

“It affects everyone from people who are elderly, and dealing with chronic pain such as arthritis, to millennials who may have gotten injured in accidents or sports," he says. 

“Usually, people who are in pain from a cause that is self-limiting and curable do not get into trouble. But the danger of dependence can arise with chronic pain, which can come and go, from causes like arthritis, diseases like cancer, old injuries, or there are people who experience pain just from living.”

Another problem is that these drugs are narcotics, which cloud the mind.

“A person takes a dose, feels woozy and falls asleep, wakes up, still has pain, and takes another dose and so on, and they forget how much they’ve taken,” he notes.

Also, people who are dealing with chronic pain are also more likely to suffer from other problems, including depression, anxiety, or difficulty sleeping, and may add medications to the mix.

“When this happens, it can really become deadly,” notes Leavey.

“Taking pain medication can be a very large slippery slope and you can easily fall into a pitfall here or there, bounce back and be okay and then slip back. This is why monitoring by a physician is so important.” 

“I always tell people that if someone close to you is taking these drugs to be aware of their behavior. Are they skipping doses? Are they taking extra doses? Try to be in communication with them, or their doctor.”

Here are pointers from the National Drug Abuse Institute on how to prevent prescription drugs from becoming a problem:

•    Always follow the prescribed directions.
•    Be aware of potential interaction with other drugs.
•    Never stop or change a dosing regimen without first discussing it with your healthcare provider.
•    Never use another person’s prescription.
•    Always inform your doctor or healthcare professional about all the prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, dietary and herbal supplement you are taking.
•    Make sure unused or expired medications are properly discarded.

© 2024 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

Growing evidence that prescription pain pills played a role in the death of Prince highlights this growing public health crisis in the U.S. A leading physician explains how to safely treat pain and when prescription drugs are a problem.
Price, prescription, pain, reliever, addiction
Thursday, 05 May 2016 03:32 PM
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