Don’t let fixing pain turn deadly

Pain relief through medication has changed medicine and people’s lives dramatically. It has also created a growing problem in society that can, and has, ended lives of otherwise healthy people.

One in 20 Americans have reported recreational use of painkillers. Nearly 15,000 Americans die from painkiller overdoses annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Many of the deaths are linked to opiod abuse. Opiods such as codeine or OxyContin can be easily obtained through legal means, a prescription bought through illegal internet sales, secured from unscrupulous physicians or imposters or borrowed from a spouse or family member. Borrowed medication is not considered a legitimate use under Femilab’s drug testing program.

Opiods were originally produced via opium derived from the poppy plant. They provide effective pain relief but have a downside in terms of tolerance. With regular use over time, a larger dosage is needed to obtain the same effect. The need to increase the dosage over time, coupled with the drug’s ability to suppress our brain’s breathing regulation center, creates a lethal combination.

Many of the prescribed opiates are for back or other muscle or joint pain. This use is not a bad thing on a short-term basis, as a means to return someone to normal motion.

The following are options to avoid or reduce opiate use in these situations:

  • Distraction balms or creams give a hot or cold sensation on the overlying skin and help jam the pain pathways.
  • The use of other drug classes such as anti-seizure medication or antidepressants in low doses can modify perceived pain.
  • Physical therapy modalities such as electrical stimulation units help decrease pain levels.
  • Exercise, particularly aerobic, is one of the most potent medicines of all. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller. It is the goal of all the other steps to get to this one.

Opiods can be lethal if suddenly withdrawn after heavy, prolonged use. If you or a loved one might have an opiate abuse issue, speak with your doctor. The Employee Assistance Program at Fermilab can help identify resources as well.

For proper drug disposal, follow the Illinois EPA’s advice.

—Dr. Brian Svazas