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February 22, 2017

Opioid Medications for Chronic Pain

Opioid Use up to 2014Let me explain the  slide that I recently put together for a presentation to local clinicians.  The information is from the Center of Disease Control and points to a health crisis of enormous proportions, right here in the US.

The graph to the very left shows the rise of deaths from certain medications from 1999 –  2012.  It tells us that the death rate from opioid drugs increased from about 1200 per year in 1999 to about 6800 in 2012.  Now, if we look to the graph on top were it just shows the death rates for 2014, opioid related drug deaths had risen to 18,883.  This represents an increase of > 277% within 2 years.

The graph on the right compares all drug overdose deaths, not just those from opioids, with deaths from car accidents.  What we see is, that  since 2007 drug related deaths have surpassed deaths from car accidents.  Actually, while deaths from car accidents have been declining, deaths related to medication and drug use have increased dramatically.  In 2014, the United states lost approximately 12 times the citizens it lost on 9/11 due to drugs and medications.

This situation cannot be acceptable for any society, and cannot be acceptable in a society that prides itself to care for its citizens.

Women are particularly affected by the opioid epidemic.  Here is why.

  • Women are more likely to have chronic pain across their life span than men
  • Women tend to seek help from medical professionals more frequently than men
  • Women are more likely to receive a Rx for painkillers, at higher dosages, over a longer period of time than men; in part, because doctors trust women more with using medications as prescribed
  • Women become dependent more quickly than men on Rx pain killers
  • Women may more likely engage in “doctor shopping”
  • Women tend to use alcohol as a replacement and supplemental drug, when tolerance kicks in


Health Psychology Sacramento is committed in reversing the use of opioid medications to treat chronic pain. We are currently training resident family physicians in our non-medication based approach.  We are also helping our patients, one patient at a time, to be medication free and to manage their pain while leading a life worth living.  Many times, patients are either completely free of their pain, or only report residual pain after exertion by the time they leave our program.  We do however ask for a 6 month commitment.

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