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The Opioid Crisis — A Case of Mass Homicide?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

opioid pain treatment

Story at-a-glance -

  • The inappropriate treatment approach to back pain and post-surgical pain from tonsillectomies and wisdom teeth removal are driving forces behind the opioid epidemic
  • Insurance claims data reveal 60% of children between the ages of 1 and 18 with private insurance fill one or more opioid prescriptions after surgical tonsil removal. Dentists wrote 18.1 million prescriptions for opioids in 2017
  • Research shows opioids (including morphine, Vicodin, oxycodone and fentanyl) fail to control moderate to severe pain any better than over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen
  • The American College of Physicians’ guideline for low back pain call for the use of heat, massage, acupuncture or chiropractic adjustments as first-line treatments. When drugs are desired, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxants should be used
  • While clinical practice guidelines call for nonpharmacological intervention for back pain, most insurance plans avoid paying for such treatments, favoring opioid treatment instead

The inappropriate treatment approach to back pain is a driving force behind the opioid epidemic, Dave Chase, co-founder of Health Rosetta, reports, citing the 2018 JAMA Network Open paper, “Opioid Prescribing for Low Back Pain: What Is the Role of Payers?”

One of the reasons for this is the sheer prevalence of back pain. Statistics suggest 8 in 10 American adults will be affected by it at some point in their life.


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