Tag Archives: pain management

While heroin use grabs headlines, don’t forget coverage of prescription pain meds

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at determinants@healthjournalism.org.

Recent Associated Press coverage of opioid pain medications, combined with new government data, serve as a reminder that opioids continue to be a scourge for public health officials looking to tamp down misuse of the drugs.

They help highlight the need for reporters not to lose sight of the ongoing efforts to control these powerful pills even as rising heroin use captures more of the headlines. Continue reading

Reporter focuses on chronic pain for series on opioid use

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Lisa Bernard-Kuhn

Lisa Bernard-Kuhn

When The Cincinnati Enquirer set out to look at the societal costs of the deadly opioid crisis, reporter Lisa Bernard-Kuhn was assigned to look at the role of chronic pain.

During more than eight months of reporting, she looked into how doctors measure pain, how effect opioids are at treating pain, patients’ expectations and more.

In an article for AHCJ, she explains how she was able to get doctors and patients to talk on the record and shares some of her most useful sources and lessons learned.

Seniors more vulnerable to painkillers’ risks

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Mary Shedden, of The Tampa Tribune, delves into the dangers of prescription medicines in older people, whose bodies may be weaker and process medications differently than younger people.

She tells the story of a 62-year-old woman who says she was diligent about controlling her use of oxycodone following back surgery. Despite her efforts, she was found nearly comatose and, after a visit to the emergency room, had to spend several days detoxifying because of a buildup of prescription medications in her body. “As [Susan] Schubert’s body was getting older, its physiological ability to efficiently process medications was weakening and changing.”

Aging bodies can become more sensitive to the effects of drugs and some drugs can build up in the body.

Designed to heal, prescription drugs also carry certain risks, depending on a person’s health, weight, gender and, yes, age. Seniors accustomed to taking a drug for years may think changes are unnecessary, but human aging and an increased tolerance to a medication can alter its effect.

As Shedden explains, “drugs known to make a person drowsy can affect focus, balance and cognitive abilities already weakened by age.”

Shedden’s story, published before yesterday’s report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality about the increase in medication- and drug-related hospital visits in people older than 45, is an interesting look into some challenges of geriatric pain management and drug dependence in an aging population.

‘Pill Mill’ series turns focus on rogue doctors

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

The Palm Beach Post‘s Michael LaForgia has put together a spicy profile of rogue Florida pain management doctors.

While Florida leaders are calling for laws that ban felons from running pain management clinics, some authorities are pointing to rogue doctors as a serious problem. “Many pain management doctors prescribe drugs responsibly and offer needed care, but authorities say a subset among them is more interested in making money than in easing pain.”

fast-cars

Photo by Ben Sutherland via Flickr

LaForgia writes that some pain clinic doctors are far from the image of benevolent caretakers: “They drive expensive cars, manage off-shore corporations and make multimillion-dollar deals — and sometimes break the rules of the state Board of Medicine.”

A review of records found that a quarter of the 60 pain management practitioners in Palm Beach County have been cited for wrongdoing by the state. A third of them have degrees from foreign medical schools, which often have lower standards than medical schools in the United States.

The story is the latest in the Post‘s “Pill Mill” series, about how “lax regulations have made Florida a pipeline for addicts and drug dealers seeking to obtain addictive painkillers such as OxyContin and hydrocodone.”

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