N.J. hospitals treating more patients for prescription drug overdose, report says

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I just read this article in todays star ledger (http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/04/nj_hospitals_treating_more_pat.html).  One of my peeves is the success of pain killers, especially prescription pain killers.  Many are quite addictive. In my experience, many people turn to these because their doctor thought pain relief was the best way to handle their pain.  In my opinion, dealing with the symptom which is pain rather than dealing with the underlying cause of the pain is going to have long term effects that will degenerate their joints and make other problems more chronic.  Today, I saw an older woman in horrible pain in her back and the solution from her orthopedist for what ails her in her knee, hip or back is a cortisone shot.  Finally it came to a head and she could barely stand in my office as I tried desperately to help relieve her discomfort.  There is a better way...

In my world, I look at the person, not just the painful parts.  I get an understanding of their level of function and then try to find the cause.  No drugs, no short cuts, just good medicine.  It is always good medicine to know what you are treating before you treat it.  It is bad medicine to offer pain relief of something you do not understand while pretending you do, only to have the person get much worse because the original problem was neglected.  Some of those people who take the pain relieves do get hooked on them and drug makers know they are not treating but just relieving pain.  Granted, there is a great market for this stuff and there are many people who buy into the drug model, to their peril.  In the end, health care costs go up, our insurance pays for the hospital visit to detox us and as we get older, we are less well.

Prescription drug overdose - a symptom of a health care system that needs to rethink its goals, its training and its purpose.

What do you think?  I value your opinions.