Chronic pain is fairly common among older adults. Nearly half of community dwelling and up to 75 percent of institutionalized adults over 65 report some type of persistent pain. Coping with pain frequently involves a combination of prescription and over-the-counter medications, from NSAIDs to opioids. However, that approach can create a host of issues, including drug-drug interactions, balance and sleep problems, or addiction. Is there another way?
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.”