Conservative Pain Management a First-Line Defense Against Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) applauds federal efforts to curb prescription drug abuse following the U.S. government’s announcement in late April that the problem has reached crisis level. ACA encourages patients and health care providers to explore drug-free, conservative approaches to pain management as a first-line defense against painkiller abuse. The government’s report, “Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis,” notes that while the use of some illegal drugs has diminished, the abuse of prescription medications has sharply increased, particularly prescription opioid pain relievers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin. It points out unintentional opioid overdoses—once almost exclusively the fate of heroin abusers—are today increasingly caused by prescription painkiller abuse. “This new report shows that while sometimes the use of these powerful drugs may be necessary, their overuse and abuse can lead to deadly consequences. The chiropractic profession offers non-drug interventions for pain relief,” said ACA President Dr. Rick McMichael. “We urge health care providers, whenever possible, to recommend drug-free conservative care interventions for their patients before prescribing medications that may be associated with harmful side effects. It’s critical that patients know their options.” The government report outlines a four-part strategy to reduce the incidence of overdose caused by painkiller abuse, including increased education; monitoring of “doctor-shoppers” who obtain multiple prescriptions; the safe disposal of prescription medications; and cracking down on “pill mill” clinics that dispense hundreds of pills per patient. ACA believes prevention is also key and that increased use of conservative approaches for pain management may curb the need for painkillers and thereby reduce the likelihood of patient dependency, overuse and possible overdose. Chiropractic care is best known for its effectiveness in treating painful conditions such as back pain, neck pain, and headaches—which are serious causes of disability in the United States. According to the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade, the number of prescription medications has increased in the past 10 years. Chiropractic care may lessen or eliminate the need for medications in some cases and help patients avoid unnecessary surgery. Chiropractic physicians treat the whole person, promote wellness and strive to address the underlying cause of patients’ ailments, not just their symptoms. Current evidence-based guidelines support the use of conservative care such as chiropractic for conditions such as chronic lower back pain. In 2007, the Annals of Internal Medicine published low back pain guidelines developed by the American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians recommending that, for patients who do not improve with self-care, doctors should consider non-pharmacologic therapies such as chiropractic care, massage therapy and acupuncture. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA), based in Arlington, Va., is the largest professional association in the United States representing doctors of chiropractic. ACA promotes the highest standards of patient care and ethics, and supports research that contributes to the health and well-being of millions of chiropractic patients. Visit www.acatoday.org.