A NIH task force is about to discuss best practices for pain management amid the nation’s opioid crisis. Meanwhile, the AMA wants pain removed as the "fifth vital sign." What’s happening here? Pain is under attack. The AMA (American Medical Association) wants pain removed as the “fifth vital sign.” Doctors make initial assessments of health based on a list of vital signs: body temperature, pulse rate, respiration (breathing) rate and blood pressure. In the late 1990s pain was added to the list. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) has convened a task force to discuss pain management best practices. That…

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A documentary filmmaker uses the death of his brother, a WWE star, as the starting point to look at the hows and whys of opioid addiction. I’m not a big documentary fan, but I was drawn in by the title "Prescription Thugs" (released in theaters January 22, 2016 and now available on many pay-per-view platforms). This is a very personal first-person documentary on painkiller medicine addiction by filmmaker Chris Bell. "Prescription Thugs" is a follow up to his first documentary, "Bigger, Faster, Stronger" (2008) in which he explored the use of steroids. In "Prescription Thugs," Bell uses his brother’s death due to his…

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It’s discouraging to see that doctors continue to prescribe opioids in the face of rising addiction, overdoses and valid alternatives Shockingly, the CDC has proposed guidelines for PCPs (primary care providers) on prescribing opioids — OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin and the like — for chronic pain. What’s the problem with that? Everything. Why are PCPs — family physicians or internists — not referring patients with chronic pain to a specialist who is trained in pain management including the use of NSAIDS, opioids and alternatives to drugs? Why are opioids being prescribed for chronic pain when there is very little evidence that…

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It’s in my nature — I see danger everywhere. But it would help if it wasn’t true that there is danger everywhere! Even in the OTC aisle of the drug store. OTC drugs are supposed to be broadly safe, hard to abuse and unlikely to cause harm or addiction if you follow the instructions. But many people don’t follow the instructions, and even those who do can make mistakes leading to big problems. Acetaminophen (Tylenol and generics) is a drug that is too easy to overdose on, even when following instructions. The FDA limits acetaminophen to 4,000 mg in 24 hours. If you use Extra…

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