One of the reasons life expectancy is declining for three straight years in the United States, and we have sunken to a pathetic 35th in recent Healthy Nations rankings, is our acculturation to grabbing a medication for every discomfort. Physicians are indoctrinated to throw a pill at every ill, rather than address the root causes of chronic disease. One of my mentors recently joked that “continuing medical education” courses should be called “continuing pharmaceutical education.” The U.S. comprises less than 5% of the world’s population, yet consumes the vast majority of addictive drugs including opiate narcotics, benzodiazepines, and sleeping pills…a prescription for disaster.
Our children watch our example. Do we tend to grab a pain reliever for every ache or pain, or an acid blocker for heartburn? Do we kid about “don’t even speak to me until I’ve had my coffee” or “I deserve a glass of wine.” Drugs are drugs so it is critical we consider mixed messages we may be sending. Resilience is something we earn by living with discomfort and working through it. So maybe, instead of reaching for the medicine cabinet with the next headache, try drinking a glass of water, taking a walk or computer break, or laying down and closing your eyes while taking some deep breaths.
Children and adolescents are at greater risk of addiction if exposed to drugs than adults. Diversion of prescription drugs is extremely common with narcotic pain relievers and stimulants, or amphetamines, prescribed for attention deficit disorder. Anabolic steroids like testosterone are tempting to young men enticed by the body-building culture. To prevent diversion, parents should keep all controlled substance medications in a locked cabinet. Most medical practices have very strict policies about not replacing lost or stolen medications. Always ask physicians to prescribe the minimum number likely to be needed and whether a less risky drug would be sufficient for your procedure. Ice, heat, massage and mindfulness practices also have excellent evidence for helping pain control. Learn how to safely dispose of medications through DEA take-bask sites to prevent them from diversion or ending up in our water supply.
How to find a DEA take-back site near you https://apps2.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/pubdispsearch/spring/main?execution=e1s1
Susan Wilder, M.D.
LifeScape Medical Associates
8757 East Bell Road, Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
T 480.860.5500 F 480.404.7868
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