Prescription Drug Overdose

According to a recent white paper released by the American College of Physicians, the CDC reports that prescription drug overdose with pain medications are a leading cause of accidental death, second only to motor vehicle accidents. Current data being evaluated indicate that pain medication overdose will become the leading cause of accidental death in 2014. As a result ACP has released a ‘Wake Up Call’ summarizing the problem and offering specific proposals to address the problem.

Denali Healthcare takes the over use of pain medications seriously. There are roughly 116 million patients with chronic pain in the United States according to recent studies. Approximately one in five patients that sees a primary care physician has a complaint of chronic pain. To put this in perspective, the average primary care physician sees approximately 20 patients per day; of those, 4 are chronic pain patients.

If each chronic pain patient receives a prescription for 4 doses of Vicodin per day (120 doses per month) the math is straightforward. Assuming 22 working days per month, the average primary care physician writes for approximately 126,720 doses of Vicodin per year (or the equivalent in other narcotics). With approximately 30,000 primary care doctors in Michigan, this translates to a staggering 3.8 BILLION doses of narcotic pain medicine annually.

What Denali Healthcare is doing about this

pill man taking a pill

We are in danger of becoming the pills we take


Denali Healthcare Pain Management is dedicated to reducing the number of prescription drugs being dispensed and available in the community. By only giving enough to control the symptoms of our direct patient, we eliminate the ‘excess’ that can be traded or given away.  We do this in several ways…

    1. Each patient is evaluated with ‘fresh eyes’. Just because a patient was on a particular prescription pain medication program at another office, once they come to us, we will completely re-evaluate their previous medication, current need and reasonable expectations of treatment results. We tend to be quite conservative in our approach to narcotic pain medication.
    2. We use combination therapy at Denali Healthcare. NSAIDS such as motrin, naprosyn, mobic and voltaren work with narcotics to increase the potency of the narcotic without increasing the side effects or sedation. This tends to reduce the amount of narcotics needed to control the pain to a reasonable level (generally about 50% of the pain level they had when they came to us). We exclusively use long acting narcotics for baseline pain control with scheduled medication.  We reserve short acting narcotics (Vicodin etc) for ‘breakthrough pain’ and in very limited numbers.
    3. Denali Healthcare uses ALL non-surgical pain control available. We fully embrace chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, biofeedback, medical marijuana, and counseling and recognize that each in their own way work toward a common goal of pain relief.
    4. The Suboxone Therapy Program at Denali Healthcare is here to help those with addiction to narcotics.

For the full discussion and links, go to Prescription Drug Overdose

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