home
RSS
February 22nd, 2012
02:15 PM ET

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: The truth about prescription medication addiction

Whenever I hand a prescription for pain pills to a patient, I tell them, “Remember not to drink any alcohol when taking these medications.”

For years, we in the medical community thought that simple message was getting through. It turns out we were wrong.

Every 19 minutes someone dies because of misuse of prescription medications. Sometimes it is because they take too much. Many times it is because they forget or ignore the warning their doctor gave about combining the medications with alcohol. And tens of thousands of people die every year as a result.

As much attention as we pay to illicit drugs such as cocaine or heroin, the truth is prescription medications kill more people in this country than those illicit drugs combined. Perhaps it is a perception issue: “It came from a pharmacy, therefore, it must be safe.”

They certainly can be safe, but they can also be incredibly addictive, with more than 1.9 million Americans hooked on prescription pain medications alone.

These painkillers are particularly dangerous because they depress the central nervous system, slowing down breathing and the brain stem’s responsiveness to CO2 to the point where someone abusing these medications can simply stop breathing. Combine these painkillers with alcohol, another depressant, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Researchers are racing to find something that can help, and there are a few promising things in development. A recent study, the first large-scale trial aimed at painkiller dependence, offered some hope.

Almost half of those addicted to painkillers - 49% - were able to reduce their drug abuse when taking Suboxone for at least 12 weeks. The drug works by reducing withdrawal symptoms and relieving cravings.

Unfortunately, the success rate dropped to less than 10% [8.6%] once patients stopped taking the drug. In the study, patients receiving intensive addiction counseling did no better than those who didn’t.

Naltrexone – sold under the brand names Revia and Vivitrol, an injectable, long-acting formulation – has also been used for prescription painkiller abuse. But naltrexone only has the potential to work in patients who are already off the painkillers long enough that the drugs are out of their system.

Truth is most of the researchers I have interviewed over the last decade all seem to agree on one thing: addiction is a brain disease. The latest science shows how the dependence on drugs or alcohol can change the brain chemistry, altering pain and reward centers. As a result of this latest science, the idea of therapy alone to treat addiction is waning.

I should point out that millions of patients use prescription pain medications every year safely, without becoming addicted, and certainly without dying. For nearly 30,000 people a year though, they pay the price with their lives.

As a doctor, I will look my patients in the eye every time I hand them a prescription to tell them the concerns about the pills they will take. It won’t just be a casual reminder about not taking the medications with alcohol, but a forceful warning backed up with scary but forceful statistics. I will remind them that they could become addicted, and they could die. That is our jobs as doctors, and it is one way to save thousands of lives.


soundoff (1,671 Responses)
  1. storno brzinol

    I take pleasure in, lead to I discovered just what I was taking a look for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

    http://www.stornobrzinol.com/

    May 16, 2021 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. WilburFlIft

    песню будете

    May 16, 2021 at 15:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Antonjewly

    песнь популярные

    May 16, 2021 at 16:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Pam Bennin

    I don't know about you people but I infatuated with airplanes. I have a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2010/08/planes-book-signings-wine-at-the-future-of-flight-on-friday/

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/airlinereporter/2010/01/21/get-vip-tickets-to-watch-the-boeing-747-8-first-flight/

    May 16, 2021 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. LesterSug

    песня юность

    May 17, 2021 at 02:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. jumbo magnetic mailbox covers

    Superb, what a web site it is! This web site gives helpful data to us, keep it up.

    May 17, 2021 at 06:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. ThomasUnark

    песнь песней текст

    May 17, 2021 at 06:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. VictorBaw

    скачать песню мп3

    May 17, 2021 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Mark Lolli

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a online game where you can do anything you want. sl is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these Second Life articles and blogs

    http://thisteachinglife.blogspot.com/2006/12/come-back-all-ye-long-departed.html

    May 17, 2021 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. LorenzoBix

    слушать песни бесплатно в хорошем качестве

    May 17, 2021 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. FmrfEncox

    differences between viagra levitra and cialis https://cialisee.com/ buy cialis with paypal

    May 17, 2021 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Georgetig

    слушающий музыку

    May 17, 2021 at 16:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Davidpsync

    песнь песней mp3

    May 18, 2021 at 03:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. LebnEncox

    ed meds escrow pharmacy online Cardizem ER

    May 18, 2021 at 03:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Giuseppe Kastel

    I don't know about you all but I am obsessed with airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2009/04/united-starts-to-charge-double/

    http://www.hotfrog.com/search/mountlake-terrace2Cwa/freight

    May 18, 2021 at 04:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Josephwaste

    музыка бесплатно 2021

    May 18, 2021 at 05:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RichardGrage

    лучшая музыка mp3

    May 18, 2021 at 08:54 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Leave a Reply to Myprivateproxynet


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.