Each time the American people think the nation’s opioid crisis can’t get any worse – it gets worse.
In 2016, 42,249 people died from opioid overdoses, which comes to 116 deaths every day, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, 11.5 million people misused opioids.
But, in a nation that takes so many prescription medications, perhaps no one should be surprised. And one underlying cause of the opioid crisis could be the way we take care of – or fail to take care of – our bodies.
“There’s a reason why Americans feel that the answer to every health problem is a pill,” says Dr. Raj Gupta (www.drrajgupta.com), founder of Soul Focus Wellness Center and author of Wellness Center Solution: How Physicians Can Transform Their Practices, Their Income and Their Lives.
“It’s because we don’t really have ‘health care’ in America. We employ a ‘sick-care’ model. We only go to the doctor when we are sick. And then we demand that doctors prescribe something for whatever ails us, and if they don’t we feel like we wasted our time.”
Antibiotics became so over-prescribed – often used when they weren’t even necessary – that they started to lose their potency. Now, Gupta says, people are doing the same with pills used to combat chronic musculoskeletal pain that results from stress, bad posture, aging bodies, sports injuries, car accidents and other causes.
He says Americans need to step back and understand a few reasons why relying on these powerful pain pills may be the wrong solution for what’s troubling them:
- Pills don’t correct the problem. A pain pill may temporarily take pain away, but it doesn’t fix whatever the underlying cause is. “When the pill wears off, the pain comes back,” Gupta says. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. “I may not know why you are in pain, but I can assure you that it’s not because your body is depleted of Percocet or Oxycodone,” Gupta says. “If you have a pebble in your shoe that irritates you and worsens with each step, the answer is not a pill called ‘Pebble Ease.’ A pill doesn’t remove the irritant. It covers it up. Your pain is a physical problem that requires a physical answer. You must remove the pebble that is irritating you and address the actual problem that is causing the pain.”
- Opioids are addictive, but not always effective. A new study shows that over time opioids don’t provide any more relief for people suffering from chronic pain than other pain relievers that don’t come with so much risk of addiction. In some cases, people using non-opioid drugs such as Tylenol, ibuprofen and lidocaine experienced more pain relief than those who used morphine, Vicodin and oxycodone. “People risk becoming addicted to these pills and yet they may not even be getting the pain relief they’re seeking,” Gupta says.
- You are responsible for your health. True health care consists of doing things that prevent you from getting sick, Gupta says. It involves a balance of proper diet, rest, exercise and a positive mental attitude. “Adopting this lifestyle of preventative healthcare will allow you to lead a prosperous, fulfilling life without the need for drugs and surgery,” he says.
“Our culture has been brainwashed to believe that there is a pill for every problem,” Gupta says. “But the real solution is that we need to move past our ‘sick-care’ model of health care and concentrate on taking better care of ourselves so we don’t feel the need for that pill to begin with.”