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Posted on 08-04-2014

Medications Can Be Deadly- Try Chiropractic First

As a Baltimore Chiropractor that treats patients with headaches, neck pain, back pain and muscle pain, usually stemming from Baltimore auto accidents and Baltimore worker's compensation injuries I see many patients who are taking too many medications. While there is certainly a time and place for medications, I find that many patients are either knowingly or unknowingly taking too much medicine to treat their pain and this can have serious adverse health effects.

The two most common forms of medications that I see being over used are opioid medications and acetaminophen.

Opioid medications are drugs such as oxycontin, hydrocodone, percocet, and vicodin. These are prescription narcotics that can help with pain. Originally these drugs were designed to treat patients recovering from surgeries or who suffer from debilitating pain such as cancer patients. Now, many of my Baltimore auto accident and Baltimore whiplash patients with acute injuries are taking these pain medications, as prescribed to them by local emergency rooms and family doctors. While it is not my place to say which medications a patient should or should not be taking when they are under appropriate medical care, it is startling to me how many of these patients assume that these medications are "safe" just because they have been prescribed by a doctor. Many of these opioid medications are highly addictive (in some cases, more so than heroin!) and patients generally have to continue to up their doses just to get the desired level of pain relief.

Opioid use has skyrocketed in the past decade and now hydrocodone based opioids are among the most commonly precribed medications in the U.S.  Some 46 people per day (approximately 17,000 per year) die from complications associated with these medications. Nearly 30 people a day are admitted to the emergency room or local hospitals for complications associated with opioid usage.

Unfortunately opioids are not the only dangerous type of medication. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is largely overused in this country as well. Due to its ubiquity in every drug store and medicine cabinet across the country many people believe that acetaminophen use is safe. In small doses it absolutely is. However, there is such a wide variety in terms of the dose per pill and the recommended daily allowance that it is hard to know how much acetaminophen is "too much", leading to surprise overdoses.

Depending on the bottle that you read, some bottles of acetaminophen recommend not exceeding 4000 mg per day. Others recommend no more than 2400 mg/day. While you may think that the FDA would streamline what the maximum allowable dose should be, it is astonishing how many different guidelines are out there.  Additionally, some pills offer 200 mg per pill, others 325 mg, and others 800 mg. With all of these different dosages it is hard to remember how much has been taken and how many should be taken maximally in a 24 hour period.

Patients who knowingly or unknowingly take too much acetaminophen can develop liver damage, liver failure, dark urine, pale stools, abdominal pain, and jaundice (a yellowing of the sclera of the eye).

To further complicate matters some of the opioid based medications are actually coated with acetaminophen to help with pain. Therefore patients who are taking opioids and acetaminophen for pain can easily exceed the maximum daily dosage of acetaminophen and can be feeling better from their pain but poisoning their livers unknowingly.

No matter the cause of a patients neck pain, back pain, or muscle soreness, the key to feeling better is staying physically active. Yoga, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture and chiropractic care have all been shown to demonstrate improvement in these conditions without the use of drugs. Again, while I am by no means against the appropriate use of drugs, I just wanted to point out how dangerous inappropriate use of these drugs can be.

If you, or someone you know, is consuming opioid medications or acetaminophen in excess to deal with headaches, neck pain, back pain, or muscle soreness please have them contact their primary care provider so that they can make sure that they are not accidentally taking too much medication. Then, please contact Mid-Atlantic Spinal Rehab & Chiropractic at (443) 842-5500 to schedule an appointment for chiropractic treatment. We would be glad to help!

Dr. Gulitz

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