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National Survey Shows Chronic Pain is Creating an Epidemic of Addiction

Chronic Pain is Creating an Epidemic of Addiction

Americans with chronic pain say that current treatments using prescription painkillers do not work, leading to years of intense suffering, thoughts of suicide, and often dependence on the medications. According to a new national survey sponsored by the Center for Public Advocacy at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, chronic pain is creating an epidemic of addiction.

"Many people with chronic pain feel hopeless," said Dr. Peter Przekop, a leading US chronic pain and addiction treatment expert who treats patients at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California. "The pain seems unending, traditional treatment often leads to drug addiction, and many wonder if life is worth living."

The 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain do so at a cost of around $600 billion a year in medical treatments and lost productivity.

The survey reveals that nearly 80 percent of those being medicated for their pain would be willing to reduce or eliminate their current medications and try an alternative treatment for their chronic pain.

The Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage has a program that is unique in the country for chronic pain. According to an outcome survey by the Betty Ford Center, some 73 percent of its patients are pain-free and drug-free a year after treatment.

"The medical system is too reliant on addictive drugs that don't work and lead to costly and long-term liabilities," said Dr. Przekop. "Truly this is a situation that needs new approaches."

Other highlights of the survey:

  • Doctors are prescribing addictive medicines to people with a history of addiction.
  • Nearly half of those surveyed (48.2 percent) take three or more pain medications.
  • 50.4 percent experienced lost productivity at work
  • 36.5 percent faced problems with family relationships

Source: Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, hazeldenbettyford.org

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