Let’s get some hardball facts out of the way first, and then, let’s see what we can do to help each other: Warning: The facts aren’t pretty…but there is hope. And, no this isn’t exactly a fun-read today. Sorry ’bout that, but this is to help YOU.
Fact: Over 100 MILLION Americans suffer from chronic pain…almost one in three of us.
Fact: The numbers are skyrocketing: The number of prescriptions for opioids has jumped from 76 million ins 1991 to 219 million, less than 20 years later.
Fact: 142 Americans die each day from pain relievers, which is more than gun homicides and car crashes combined. Things are so bad, the White House just declared the problem a national public health emergency.
Jane Brody wrote an excellent and extensive article in the New York Times this week on this very subject. It is titled: Opioids Aren’t the Only Pain Drugs to Fear.
When confronted with this knowledge, the most common (and inaccurate) reply is, “Yeah, that’s sad, but I’m okay, cuz I only take over-the-counter pain relievers.” Well, good luck on that one. If you’ve only done a little homework, you probably know not to take a lot of aspirin. For starters, it causes intestinal bleeding…and worse.
Many go instead to other NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like naproxen or ibuprofen thinking they are safe. Do a little more homework. Your life may depend on it. NSAIDs, when taken for more than a few days, cause clogging of the blood vessels, as well as ulcers, kidney and sometimes liver failure.
Well, at least Tylenol is okay? NO. Tylenol (acetaminophen), taken in the higher doses and over a long period of time, can cause severe liver damage.
One of the critical problems is your average human being with chronic pain is a victim of two things. First, every single one of these pain relievers, oxycodone (an opiod) becomes less effective in handling your pain over time. It’s the nature of pain medication. We get used to it and, what is the mantra of the average human mind? If two Tylenol aren’t working then three or four will do the job. Yup, that works for a while, but then what? Six? Eight? Second, people in pain become desperate, and with that they can get to the point where they don’t care about long-term effects anymore.
Worse than that, none of these brand name over-the-counter pain relievers like to “play together.” The Tylenols aren’t quite doing the trick, so you take some ibuprofen…and then a couple of aspirin and that’s a recipe for some serious time in a hospital.
There is also Meloxicam, Gabapentin, Tramadol, and a host of other heavy- duty pain relievers which you may be familiar with if you’ve been in the “trenches” fighting chronic pain. With my wife, Pamela’s war on cancer, lymphedema, and her recent hip replacement, we’ve been in the trenches for over two years now. It used to be that if you had some serious surgery, your back went out, or you had some root canal dentistry, they would give you a bottle of Oxycodone and that would take care of everything, albeit briefly.
Because we are now in a state of national emergency, even people with very real, very severe pain are being denied the proper medication to treat it. 100 million people are individually trying to thread their way through this without destroying their livers, kidneys, blood vessels, or getting a stroke or death. No one is really looking out for you right now. Doctors and hospitals are swamped.
Misconceptions: I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but…the prime-directive for all pharmaceutical companies is to make a PROFIT…very often at our expense. The news is filled to over-flowing with drugs that didn’t work, or they did, but they were extremely dangerous in other ways. In short, they are there for the sole purpose of making a profit. As such, the drug companies will never, ever, ever, suggest or support anything that isn’t a pill or an injection. More ominously, they have enough horsepower to give bad press to things that actually do work, but take away from their profit.
Alternatives whose only drawback is they don’t make huge profits for the pharmaceutical companies: Acupuncture, Meditation, Acupressure, Yoga, Medicinal THC, and guess what, good old-fashioned physical exercise. Their big drawback is they don’t cost you a lot, if anything, but a couple of them have an unearned bad rap.
Let’s take one of the most misunderstood ones first. Medicinal THC. Older generations, who grew up with movies like Reefer Madness, think that THC is in someway evil. Fact: Medicinal THC has been modified to the point that you can take a pill and have the pain go away. No, it’s not addictive, like the opiods and if the one you love has cancer and refuses to eat, THC is the answer. It is, in fact, the answer to a number of afflictions, glaucoma being one of them. My pup, Gigi can see now, though our vet first gave us the news that she’d be blind in a month. THC took care of it. Did her personality change? No. Did her eyes glow in the dark? Actually, they do, but they always did. So do most all animals.
Meditation: Ooooh…that sounds like some kind of eastern mumbo jumbo thing, incense, gongs, weird statues of Buddha. Nope. Fact: The U.S. Military uses it in their hospitals for a variety of occasions, one of them being to help burn victims returning from the Iraq War. Do you think the Army, Marines, Air Foce and Navy are into mumbo jumbo?????
Having been raised in a family where my mom practiced and used meditation, I can attest to there not being much of any pain relievers in our house. Mom died at ninety, never having had surgery, or been in a hospital. When I go to the dentist, I have trained my brain to go to another place entirely. Do I feel the pain? Yup, though it’s a very distant sort of thing, like hearing a conversation in a different room. Often, my dentist will tap my arm thinking he has to wake me up. It works. Does it work for chonic pain? Yes. In a heartening way, when I speak with close friends down here in North Carolina, a good number of them are already doing the same. Not one of them has any doubts whatsoever.
As a tiny sidebar, I am working with a creative group called Artists of the Round Table on a concept and a device that dramatically helps one to learn how to meditate. Without it, it takes awhile to master. Our goal is to help a good number of those 100 million sufferers.
Acupuncture and Acupressure: Is this some newfangled kind of trick? Yup, those “tricky” Chinese invented it 400 years BC. Today, they can and often do perform major surgery with no chemical anesthesia whatsoever. That’s impressive. I have had acupuncture. It works.
Yoga, Exercise? For Pain? If you doubt this, I seriously wonder what rock you’ve been living under. The body is an amazing machine if you will help it to heal itself. Yoga…this new-fangled, New Age exercise….was created over 5000 years ago. May it’s not that New Age.
P.S. Since we’re on the subject of helping our loved ones, a while back I published an article that deals with the hideous, expensive, cruel and expanding problem of Alzheimers Disease.
With Pamela and I both having mothers who have had dementia issues, this interested us hugely. There has been a huge breakthrough and it doesn’t cost $$$$$. There is a documentary on it. Here is a link to the article on my website: Huge Hope for a Huge Fear