“Pharmageddon” is upon us
Just Say No to Drugs,
Now We Mean Medications
When Nancy Reagan taught schoolchildren to “just say no” to drugs in 1981, little would she know the real danger in 2011 to children and adults would not be street drugs, but pharmaceutical medications. “Understanding what drugs can do to your children, understanding peer pressure, and understanding why they turn to drugs is… the first step in solving the problem.”
I would add to Mrs. Reagan’s list to include the second step in solving this problem: to understand the medical peer pressure to consume meds, as well as the side-effects, costs, and addiction associated with medications, especially the opioids. Indeed, it now appears most wonder drugs are not so wonderful to many people.
Perhaps we chiropractors are too naïve about drugs since they are outside our scope of practice and we are poorly educated on the use of drugs. However, since this is not solely a street or recreational drug problem, we need to be aware of this addiction issue and offer a viable solution to this huge epidemic plaguing America.
Consider these facts: approximately 4.5 million visits to physicians’ office and emergency rooms every year are directly linked to adverse drug reactions; 1.9 million patients in US hospitals (equivalent to 5% of all hospitalizations) had “medication-related adverse outcomes.” Every day 13,000 people have serious adverse reactions that require a trip to their physician or ER; over 106,000 annually experience fatal prescription adverse reactions in hospitals. Undoubtedly, drug related deaths are underreported and miscoded. Indeed, considering Avandia triggered 83,000 cardiovascular events, none were codified as “death from Avandia.”
People in pain want relief, but the overabundance of opioids has now caused a new brand of entertainment showcased on reality TV shows. Addictive drugs are so commonplace that now you can watch the TV program, Intervention™ on A&E, which is, according to its website, “a powerful and gripping television series in which people confront their darkest demons and seek a route to redemption.”
Sadly, many of these addicts’ problems stem from back pain and failed medical treatments. We see the same sorts in our offices daily and we can only imagine how many would be well today if they had visited a chiropractor instead of buying a ticket on the medical gravy train of drugs, shots, and spine surgery. Ironically, these quick fixes often turn out to be a long ride on the medical gravy train.
In the past when DD and BJ Palmer and their disciples were philosophically opposed to all drugs, any criticism of medications was met with disbelief by the public and press since antibiotics are credited with helping stave off many infectious disorders. But now with the insurgence of super-germs due to the over-use of antibiotics, some believe we have regressed back to the pre-antibiotic era since current antibiotics have no effect upon super-germs. Soon most hospitals will be regarded as Hazmet zones with the proliferation of these MRSA and other super-germs.
As the non-pharmaceutical healthcare profession, we go about our daily practices treating patients naturally and teaching holistic methods to stay well, not thinking much about this issue. Compounding this problem is, unfortunately, the mainstream medical and pharmaceutical professions that have a much different slant on the drug issue since it seems their goal is to have every American taking every drug. Considering the emphasis on TV and magazine direct-to-consumer drug ads, new medications not only cure, they make you beautiful just like the models in the advertisements. Indeed, when the average person daily takes twelve pharmaceuticals, something is amiss with our concept of health causation and disease treatments.
News accounts also are alarmed at the ungodly amounts of medications for the armed services, veterans, and the elderly., Not only is every segment of Americans over-medicated, drug addicts are putting pharmacies under siege by staging armed robberies for hillbilly heroin, OxyContin® (also included are Xanax, Klonopin, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone). Instead of robbing banks, these addicts realize pharmacies are less well guarded, so they bypass the middle man and go directly to the source now.
Compounding this drug problem are “pill mill” pain clinics that are the fastest growing segment in medical care today. These pill mills do not diagnose, have no therapy equipment or staff—they simply ask patients what type of meds they want. There is no pretense that these medical drug dealers are operating on a cash-only basis to stay below the legal radar.
Recently the Georgia Public Broadcasting network revealed the growing problem of pill mills for chronic pain, mainly for chronic back pain. What is being called an “epidemic” problem involves people with a prescription drug addiction, and those feeding them the supply–MDs.
The U.S Attorney’s office in Atlanta admitted that “six times the number of people died of prescription drug abuse in Georgia last year than from all other illegal drugs combined.” In the GPB radio interview, Dr. Barry Straus with the North Georgia Pain Clinic also admitted to a flood of illegal clinics and operators in Georgia: “Much of the problem is the physicians who don’t really know how to treat chronic pain but are viewing this as a quick buck and an easy way to get rich and prescribe out medicines—essentially being a legal drug dealer.”
The pill crisis, which some are calling “pharmageddon,” is only now receiving national attention. As part of an initiative announced in April, the White House demanded that the makers of one class of drugs, known as “extended release and long-acting opioids,” make more concerted efforts to educate doctors and patients.
Lynn Kissick, from Morehead, KY, whose daughter died from an overdose at the age of 22, wonders if any of this will work. “I don’t know how to get a grip on something so large. Some doctors are too busy making money. There’s a lot of them that just write it out and say ‘here you go’. And it doesn’t matter if my daughter dies from it or your child. They don’t care. They don’t know them. It doesn’t matter.”
After decades proclaiming “wonder drugs” as the solution to all ailments (too reminiscent of the 19th century patent medicines laced with alcohol and cocaine), it must be embarrassing for the medical and pharmaceutical professions to admit the dangers of their remedies, but this embarrassment has not slowed the flow of drugs.
“It’s absolutely insane that Big Pharma pockets piles of money while causing so much death and destruction, all the while claiming that their drugs are precisely what you need to get healthy,” remarks Julian Whitaker, MD.
One simple reason why prescription drugs are so popular is the legality. “We could all have found a better high,” one recovering addict admits, “it’s just the prescription drug is so easy accessed” from MDs who are essentially legal drug dealers as Dr. Straus mentioned.
Obviously the drug epidemic, both pushed and prescribed, is killing people. When you throw into this mix the deaths from tobacco and alcohol, we either have the solution to long term healthcare reform via premature deaths or else we have the sickest healthcare system on earth—“choose your poison” seems to be the allopathic answer.
Indeed, how many people will continue to suffer from these spurious medical methods? How many will become addicted to meds or become disabled due to failed back surgery syndrome? Indeed, how many must die before something is said against the medical gravy train?
This is an issue upon which the chiropractic profession needs to take a public stand. Imagine an article titled, “Chiropractors Derail the Gravy Train of Hillbilly Heroin” in which we explain that joint dysfunction contributes greatly to the epidemic of back pain and musculoskeletal disorders. Imagine how many back, hip, knee, wrist, and other extremity joint surgeries could be avoided with manipulative therapy.
This number includes hundreds of thousands of patients who think (as they are told by their MDs) that their only solutions are drugs, shots, and surgery—the medical gravy train. Whereas this would have been viewed in yesteryear as hyperbole, today we are on safe ground considering comparative research agrees that the medical gravy train of drugs, shots, and surgery have not worked to end the back pain epidemic.
Gordon Waddell, DSc, MD, FRCS, author of The Back Pain Revolution, mentioned the irony of medical care for back pain: “Low back pain has been a 20th century health care disaster. Medical care certainly has not solved the everyday symptom of low back pain and even may be reinforcing and exacerbating the problem.”
(To learn more, read Chapter 7 in my new book that details this issue: www.medicalwaragainstchiropractors.com )
Now is the time for the chiropractic profession to be openly critical of drugs—not with the historical “all drugs are bad” stance since many meds have helped many people. We need to tell the public that many can live without drugs, especially pain pills.
Indeed, the old saying “Just Say No” to drugs should be extended today to include, “Just Say No to Drugs, But Say Yes to Chiropractic.”
 “Mrs. Reagan’s Crusade”. Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.
 Julian Whitaker, “Pharmaceutical Nation,” Health & Healing, June 2011, vol. 21 No.6
 Charley Keyes, CNN Senior National Security Producer, “After decade of war, concerns about over-medicated military,” CNN.com June 3, 2011
 Are senior citizens being overmedicated? CNN.com, June 3rd, 2011
 Edgar Treiguts, State’s Prescription Drug Abuse ‘Epidemic’, GPB, March 2, 2011
 Paul Adams, “Prescription pills blamed for ‘Pharmageddon’ in Kentucky,” BBC News,12 June 2011
 Whitaker, ibid.
 Edgar Treiguts, State’s Prescription Drug Abuse ‘Epidemic’, GPB, March 2, 2011
 G Waddell and OB Allan, “A Historical Perspective On Low Back Pain And Disability, “Acta Orthop Scand 60 (suppl 234), (1989)