Rather than quickly resorting to medications when you experience aches and pains, try physical therapy or acupuncture to achieve long-term pain relief. Just under a year ago, my shoulder started hurting when I moved my arm in a particular way. It felt like I’d overstretched a muscle while sleeping on my side. I work out with a trainer, so I told him about the pain (discomfort, really) and my thoughts about what had caused it. For a couple of weeks we did some strengthening exercises and I worked on sleeping on my back all night. This was a problem and…

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Lice are a fact of life for many people. They most commonly affect school-age children and the adults who live or spend the day with them. It doesn’t matter how many times we hear that lice are not a sign of uncleanliness and don’t carry disease, most people still want them off their head as quickly as possible. There are many different kinds of treatments that are used in the hair to eliminate lice. But which ones are the safest and most effective? Common Names Over-the-counter pediculicides: RID and Nix (both permethrin or pyrethrins). Other OTC products: ClearLice (shampoo with…

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One of the most fascinating aspects of learning about side effects of drugs has been to discover that many side effects are predictable based on how the a drug works in the body — what is called "method of action." Opioids, for example, work by slowing pain receptors and increasing dopamine, a chemical that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure center, which is an effective way of inhibiting the body’s ability to feel pain and makes you feel great. Erin Attermeier This colorful and informative video explains how opioids work (there’s no sound). However, opioids not only go to the brain but also move throughout…

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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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When the doctors who are charged with managing pain come out with a public policy position against use of opioids (like oxycodone, methodone and hydrocodine) for chronic pain, we should pay attention. The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) released a position statement in December 2014 to tell the world that chronic use of opioids provides "no substantial evidence for maintenance of pain relief or improved function over long periods of time (over 3 months) without incurring serious risk of overdose, dependence, or addiction." In this policy statement, the Academy finds that the effectiveness of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain is…

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I’m delighted that the FDA decided to reclassify Vicodin and generics (combined hydrocodone and acetaminophen) from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug — requiring more restrictions and making it more difficult to get. To put this in context, doctors are not allowed to write prescriptions for Schedule I drugs because they have no recognized medical use (heroin and LSD, for example). Vicodin and pals are now in the most restricted category of drugs that doctors are allowed to prescribe. The first line of the definition of an FDA Schedule II drug is: "The drug or other substances have a…

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Here are ideas that made me put down my coffee and pay attention: Avoid taking any drug that has been on the market for less than 3 years. Why? Some drugs have significant side effects that don’t become apparent until a large group of people have taken it under real-life circumstances. In that unusual but not rare event, the FDA will reverse approval. A study (this link requires a free registration) of the Canadian process (similar to the U.S.) found the median time period between drug approval and withdrawal was about 3 years. So when you have the choice between 2 drugs, take the…

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