Australia is in the midst of a drug epidemic yet unknown to most, these drugs are legally prescribed medications. Health authorities have referred to this issue as an ‘opioid epidemic’: the prescription and subsequent addiction to pain killers that is leading to a record level of death and overdose. This startling trend was recently highlighted by the Penington Institute, an Australian research organisation setup out of a need to look at more effective, cost-efficient and compassionate ways to prevent and respond to problematic drug use in our community.

The 2016 Annual Overdose Report

It was revealed a growing health crisis is affecting record numbers of Australian patients. The key facts and figures from this report are summarised below:

  • 58% of non-cancer opioid prescriptions are for musculoskeletal problems
  • Between the years 2004 and 2014 there was a 61% increase in prescription opioid deaths
  • 69% of drug-related deaths in Australia come from prescription medications
  • Australians aged between 40 and 49 are the most likely to die from drug overdose

In the face of these figures, and as a healthcare practitioner working to make the community better, surely there has to be a better way. For those people suffering from musculoskeletal issues such as back pain, manual therapies (including Chiropractic) should be tried in the first instance.

Non-Invasive Approaches Should Be Explored Earlier

We know that ~80% of Australians will experience back pain at some point during their lifetime. The research also tells us that Chiropractic is an effective way to treat back pain. Adding to this, another benefit of Chiropractic care is that it’s not addictive and non-invasive. Further research concludes that opioids have some effectiveness in treating back pain however are associated with side effects such as addiction. Painkillers do not address underlying causes of back pain, they only provide relief from pain. Medical authorities should feel more confident working with Chiropractors in reducing the over-prescription of pain killers for musculoskeletal issues.

Guest Author: Dr. Paul Calladine


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