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Pills Don’t Have a Free Pass – The underreporting of prescription drug deaths in Texas

Pills Don’t Have a Free Pass – The underreporting of prescription drug deaths in Texas

Prescription drugs are a hidden epidemic. It’s easier to let the abuse of prescription medications go under the radar because of their many legitimate uses. When used responsibly, drugs such as sedatives and painkillers help many people deal with the aches and discomforts of life. That said, the statistics behind the abuse of prescription substances have gone underreported in the state of Texas.

In April of 2015, the Houston Chronicle found prescription drug deaths vastly obscured in Texas. Dr. David Lakey, once the Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner, reported that the state had one of the lowest rates of prescription drug deaths in the country. The information was problematic, however, since it only included certain painkillers (leaving out deaths from other prescription drugs) and didn’t include local statistics from many counties in the state.

Awareness of this underreporting is difficult to come by because not all families of the deceased feel comfortable speaking up. One who is willing to have their voice heard is Bari Brochstein-Ruggeri, who lost her daughter five years ago to painkiller overdose. A deadly mix of these drugs prescribed by doctors shut down Jennifer’s liver and induced a fatal coma.

“Somebody needs to keep this in the public eye and maybe it will change, so another family doesn’t have to go through what we went through,” Brochstein-Ruggeri told the Houston Chronicle.

Prescription painkiller deaths have grown exponentially in the U.S., with the Center for Disease Control noting the increase spiking between 1999 and 2010 for women.

“We are also seeing not only deaths but a great increase in… emergency department visits for drug misuse or drug abuse, including opiate overdose or misuse. These are troubling numbers,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, current director of the CDC. He finds the deaths proportional to the rising distribution of painkillers.

The CDC has also found that 42 women die every day due to a drug overdose of some kind. Almost a million women have also attended emergency rooms in 2010 due to prescription drug issues. One-fifth of those who ended up in the hospital had consumed opioids.

Dr. Frieden believes this epidemic can be curbed if doctors use screening methods for monitoring patients on a painkiller program. Alternative methods for treating pain are also recommended for replacing or supplementing prescription drug use.

As noted in research put forth by the FDA, Michael C. Rowbotham, M.D., scientific director of the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, proposes several alternatives to treating pain.

One is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a method used by many counselors to help patients find the connections between thoughts, feelings, stimuli and behavior. In a study titled “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in for Individuals with Chronic Pain,” Dawn M. Ehde from the University of Washington has found CBT important in fighting the “catastrophizing” of pain, or the “magnification of the threat of, rumination about, and perceived inability to cope with pain” despite rational evidence presenting otherwise.

Exercise is another alternative pain treatment proposed by Dr. Rowbotham. While the efficacy of this method can depend on the medical condition of the patient and his or her physical capability, a doctor-approved routine can work wonders for inducing restful sleep and reducing the need for pain medications, according to Maura Daly Iversen, spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association.

Painkiller addiction and other substance abuse problems are hurting both Texas and the United States in many ways, requiring the need for more recovery resources. The Texas Substance Abuse Helpline is one of those pathways to sobriety. Addiction treatment specialists are available to provide helpful treatments such as CBT, solution-based therapy, yoga and more — all proven to help people on the road to recovery from substance abuse. Don’t hesitate to call 866-971-2658 any time to start on the road to recovery and save a life.