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Over Prescribing Pain Killers and Doctor Shopping

The United States is facing an epidemic of prescription pain medications. This is not breaking news by any means, but what is causing this  problem? America is becoming a pill-popping country and it is not all about the pain medications.  First off, I want to make it clear we are very lucky to live in a time where our medical knowledge is vast. We have medicine and cures for common ailments that used to kill people 100 years ago.  Dealing with pain is one of the medical categories that has come along way in the past 25 years alone. There are no shortage of pain killers to help people who are in chronic pain. These medicines have been life savers to many people who suffer from debilitating diseases which cause extreme pain and discomfort.  The medicines do a great job at helping to reduce pain when properly prescribed, and properly taken at the proper doses.  The problem is that pain is not something that can easily be checked or confirmed by someone else. Unlike a thermometer which can read a person's temperature, there is no device that can read the pain level an individual is feeling.  This can easily lead to abuse because someone just has to tell their doctor they are still feeling pain in order to get a prescription. These pain killers, which many are opiate based do a great job at easing pain, but also give the user a euphoric and good feeling.  The abuse of these medications can be deadly as tolerance quickly builds up and the user needs more and more.

There are plenty of over the counter fever and pain reducers that do a great job, but big pharmacy companies realize how profitable the prescription pain pill industry is.  It 2011 according to IMS Health that pain pills are a $9 billion dollar a year industry.  With many pain killers on the market, and the availability of these medications has caused massive addiction problems. This has lead to lots of "Doctor Shopping" where users visit multiple doctors to get more than one prescription to either feed their addiction or to sell for money. This has also led to "Pill Mills", which are doctor's offices that are known for writing out prescriptions to anyone who has money to pay the doctor.  The opiate pain killer industry is getting so large, that in 2012, the DEA has set the quota for oxycodone at 98 million grams, or about 108 tons, and for hydrocodone at 59 million grams, or 65 tons.  This limit was obviously set for a reason, so there must be a problem.

We have become a country that takes prescription drugs for just about every ailment out there. We are even starting to see medications for new ailments that didn't really exist years ago.  RLS or restless leg syndrome market did not exist 10 years ago but our country already has a prescription drug to treat it and highly advertises it.

Many ailments can easily be treated by getting more exercise and eating the proper foods for a healthy diet. Unfortunately "Big Pharma" can't sell you exercise or nutrition.  What they can sell you is a prescription drug to help you with your issue. If you pay attention to advertisements for pharmaceutical drugs especially on television commercials, listen towards the end for the warnings the medication may cause. Friends of mine and I joke that the list of possible issues for some of these medications include death. Yes, you can have irritable bowel syndrome but the medication you are taking may cause death.

If you look at the society we live in today, we are trained to expect a medication when going to the hospital or doctor. People pay good money for health insurance so naturally when someone visits their doctor, they expect something in return. The professional advice of a medical doctor doesn't seem to be enough anymore, our society wants some form of medication for their money. This gives Big Pharma the opportunity to make medications for anything and everything you can think of.

You have chemists and doctors working at big pharmaceutical companies who want to keep their jobs.  Their job is to create new medications. The pharmaceutical companies have stock holders who are expecting more sales from the company. Pharmaceutical companies have reps that go around trying to get doctors to write prescriptions using their medication. Pharmaceutical companies spend billions of dollars researching new medications and advertising which keeps other companies profitable with advertising money. (Watch television or flip through a magazine and you will see large ads).

Some skeptics of pharmaceutical companies believe they want everyone on medications. If they have you on a medication to help with your blood pressure that medication may have a side effect in which another medication is available.  For example some blood pressure medications may have a side effect of brittle bone disease.  There is a medication for brittle bone disease, but that medication has a side effect of hair loss which allows doctors to prescribe another medication. Do you see a pattern here? It is a never-ending domino effect of prescription drugs that are serving a purpose only because of the first medication prescribed. Most doctors will not recommend a change in diet and exercise to try and help your blood pressure before prescribing the medication because our society wants instant solutions.  Cholesterol too high?  Why change your diet and exercise regime when you can just take a statin medication such as Lipitor?  This is partially the fault of society pressuring doctors to prescribe, prescribe, prescribe and for patients to take more and more medications. A vicious cycle with no end in site. It is time for people to do the research themselves and look into natural means of getting healthy, and staying healthy.


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