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Why are painkillers all over the news right now?

Brought to you by Laura Bitts, M.D. - The Portland Clinic - MEDICAL INSIDER -


THE PORTLAND CLINIC - Laura Bitts, M.D.After two decades of increasing use of OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin and other opioid pain medicines in the United States, new studies are finding that these drugs are associated with far more harm than previously understood. In Oregon, the majority of drug-overdose deaths are now linked to prescription opioids.

Short-term use of opioids can be helpful for acute pain, but the research to date has found no good evidence that opioids improve pain or function when used long term. In addition to these risks of addiction and overdose, opioids can have far-reaching effects on your body and brain. They may cause or worsen depression, sleep problems, cardiovascular disease and low testosterone. They may reduce your ability to function socially or at work. And for many people, they actually increase sensitivity to pain.

Some people—particularly those with a history of depression, trauma or addiction to alcohol or other substances—are at especially high risk. One study found that 47 percent of people on opioids for 30 days will still be on them three years later. Addiction is a serious health issue, not a personal failing, that can and should be treated.

Your doctor can help you explore the approaches that might work best for you depending on your individual pain issues. Three that work very well for many people are non-opioid pain medications, physical therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s well worth a conversation with your doctor.

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