No one wants to live in pain. But no one should put their health at risk in an effort to be pain free.
Since 1999, Americans have increasingly been prescribed opioids—painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin and methodone, and combination drugs like Percocet. Sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999. So have deaths related to prescription opioids. So have heroin-related deaths.
In some situations, dosed appropriately, prescription opioids are an appropriate part of medical treatment. However, opioid use does come with some risks that include depression, overdose and addiction, plus withdrawal symptoms when stopping use.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines in March 2016, urging health care providers to reduce the use of opioids in favor of safer alternatives like physical therapy. In August 2016, the Surgeon General sent a letter to every physician in the country asking for their help to solve the problem.
The CDC guidelines indicate that opioids may be appropriates for situations including cancer treatment, palliative care, end-of-life care, and certain acute care situations. Still, the CDC guidelines also suggest pairing opioid therapy with non-opioid therapy, and their prescriber checklist recommends trying non-opioid therapy first.
October is National Physical Therapy Month, and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has launched a campaign called #ChoosePT to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription opioids and encourage consumers and prescribers to choose the safer alternative of physical therapy for long-term pain management, consistent with CDC guidelines.
Prescription Opioid Use Statistics
- In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication, enough for every American adult to have their own bottle of pills.
- As many as 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids long term for non-cancer pain in primary care settings struggles with addiction.
- Sales of prescription opioids have nearly quadrupled since 1999.
- Deaths related to prescription opioids have quadrupled.
- Heroin-related overdose deaths more than quadrupled between 2002 and 2014, and people addicted to prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to be addicted to heroin.
- More than 165,000 persons in the U.S. have died from opioid pain-medication-related overdoses since 1999.
- Every day, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids.