Are You Getting Good Advice About Addictive Drugs?
The field of medicine has changed quite a bit over the years. For one thing, this field is much more complicated than it used to be. We know so much more about the human body. We know more about what ails us, and about what we might do to treat those ailments. But as medicine has developed, this field has inevitably experienced consequences due to progress.
As our ability to live healthier, longer lives has increased thanks to medicine, our demand for more comfortable lives has also grown. And while there is nothing wrong with wanting a comfortable life, this often translates into pressure on the medical community to provide medications that they might not otherwise prescribe. And behind the scenes and on our televisions, the pharmaceutical companies that make the expensive, addictive pain meds simply rake in the profits.
We've come to a point where prescription painkillers, though they offer pain relief, also come at the risk of creating addiction. Pain patients often don't know what to do. They don't want to suffer with pain. But they don't want to risk an addiction either.
How can the average American protect her health and the health of her family? What steps can we all take to ensure that we are making the correct decisions? If we are struggling with pain, what can we do to ensure a reduction in pain with little to no attendant risk?
A Story of an Impostor Doctor
The incentive to talk about patient awareness and patients taking their health into their own hands came when I read a surprising article in Medscape. The article reported on a man from Katy, Texas, who was found guilty for running a “pill mill.” The man posed as a doctor and disbursed hundreds of thousands of doses of opioids and other controlled substances. He did this over six months before he was caught.
Muhammad Arif is now facing criminal charges on one count of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute and dispense controlled substances and three counts of illegally distributing and dispensing controlled substances.
“The evidence showed that Arif was not licensed to practice medicine in the United States, but posed as a physician at Aster Medical Clinic…”
Quoting the Department of Justice, “The evidence showed that Arif was not licensed to practice medicine in the United States, but posed as a physician at Aster Medical Clinic, saw patients as if he were a physician, and wrote prescriptions for patients on prescription pads that had been pre-signed by the doctor, Arif's co-conspirator.”
It’s worth mentioning that cases like the above are in the minority. The vast majority of medical practitioners in the United States are well-intentioned men and women, professionals who want to help others improve their health. Keep in mind that a story like this only made the news only because stories like these are extremely rare. When patients see their doctors, they almost always experience good results from such visits.
Why Is It So Important to Get Informed?
Even though cases like the above are very rare, the story from Medscape does teach us a good lesson. It covers a DOJ case, a case that reminds us of the importance of taking responsibility for our own health. We should not leave it all up to the doctors to figure out what is best for our health. Instead, we should do the majority of the work and research ourselves. We should seek the help and opinions of medical experts to answer the questions that we arrive at from our own research.
For one thing, it simply makes sense to get educated about the types of medicines we put in our bodies. And while almost all doctors certainly have good intentions, there are pharmaceutical drugs out there with harmful side effects. The 21st-century brought us a massive increase in the predominance of opiate-based painkillers, drugs intended to help patients with physical pain, but drugs that are also quite addictive.
Common Sense Tips for Good Health Practice
We can no longer assume that taking medication, even on a doctor’s orders, is going to be the right solution 100% of the time. And while I cannot give medical advice, I have found some basic, common-sense rules for approaching medicine and health that seem workable:
- Consider seeking an alternative to pain medication when possible. Though they get almost no attention, there are plenty of alternatives to our pharmaceutical “solutions.” Humans have been treating physical pain for thousands of years. The pharmaceutical method is relatively recent when you consider our long history of medical practice. Just a cursory glance at an article by the Arthritis Foundation reveals how many options one has for treating pain without meds.
- Get a second opinion from another doctor. If a primary care physician is saying one thing, and we’re not so sure about it, we should seek another opinion! We stand to lose nothing by getting a second opinion. But we stand to gain quite a bit in doing so. Decisions regarding our health should be well thought out, with advice garnered from multiple sources.
- Seek personal referrals from family members and friends. There’s value in seeking the advice of someone who’s been through what we are going through now. Particularly if they were able to overcome the condition. How did they do it? And could we do something similar?
- Consider Looking for a doctor who is quite conservative in prescribing painkillers and drugs known for their harmful side-effects. For years, doctors were too liberal in prescribing pain meds to their patients. Only recently have doctors begun to cut back in their prescribing. And again, while I can't give personal medical advice, it's generally a good idea to err on the side of receiving fewer pain meds, in lower dosages, and only in receiving such meds when absolutely necessary. The CDC will back me on that with their doctrine of conservative prescribing.
- Most doctors already do this, but make sure you and your doctor engage in informed consent on any medicine he or she prescribes you. That means if your doctor does think it's a good idea to prescribe a drug, that he or she sits down with you and has a thorough conversation with you about the drug. It's important that your doctor engages with you on the drug, and informs you of the pros and cons of the suggested drug or treatment. In this way, you as the patient are fully informed on the medicine, and you can decide to accept a prescription for the drug or not.
What Can I Do if I Become Addicted to Pharmaceutical Drugs?
“Every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare.” That’s a quote from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is data like that which reminds us of the importance of being quite cautious with our health.
If we do become addicted to prescription drugs, or if we know someone who has fallen into this trap already, the answer lies in residential drug treatment. Only residential rehab centers can safely assist people in breaking free from addiction for good.
Reviewed and edited by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP