Bet you can’t eat just one, so don’t bite

This editorial column by Dr. Bob Hayden was previously published in the print edition of The GRIP.

The title for this discussion was taken from a commercial for potato chips. The maker was daring us to try to eat just one chip, knowing that the American taste for calorie-dense, salt-laden junk food is overpowering. Really, it was a good ad campaign. I have never been able to eat just one.

Much worse than potato chip gluttony, which is bad enough, is our current national dilemma. Sometimes, people can’t take just one opiate.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has declared that opiate addiction in America is now an epidemic.

Let’s have a serious talk for a minute.

Overdose deaths continue to rise in the United States. Two-thirds of these overdoses involve opioids. By 2016, the number of overdose deaths from all opioids, including those given by prescription and heroin, was five times higher than rates just 15-16 years ago. During this time 600,000 people died. That is 115 Americans daily.

By the way, for you history buffs, that is about the number of deaths on both sides during the American War Between the States.

The driving factor in this epidemic is the number of prescriptions written for the pain killers, which become a gateway drug for the addiction. Sometimes opioid pain killers are clinically indicated, but we are way beyond what is reasonable.

In terms of numbers, the total number of opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals and doctors’ offices quadrupled in the first decade of this century with no measurable difference in the level of pain reported by the patients.

Deaths have also quadrupled.

Maybe three weeks ago, I got an email about a conference at a local hospital about the opioid crisis here in our community. I was excited to get the invitation. It invited prescribing physicians and pharmacists to the discussion.

Though I do not prescribe drugs, I called the person who sent me the invitation and said I’d love to attend and see what folks are suggesting about answers to the problem. I suggested that I represent part of the answer, since chiropractors are non-drug doctors who treat acute and chronic pain every day.

The person on the other end of the phone was hesitant and said she would get back to me. The result? I was removed from the mailing list. So much for wanting evidence-based non-drug answers, right?

Meanwhile, an old nemesis is back: heroin use is greatly increased.

The ubiquitous availability, cheap price and increased purity have made it rapidly addictive and dangerous. In the six-year span from 2010 and 2016, heroin deaths rose by a factor of five with nearly 15,500 deaths in 2016 alone. This was worsened by the advent of synthetic opioids, which from 2015-2016 went from 9,580 deaths to 19,413. Of these, the illegal fentanyl is a serious problem, as it is frequently mixed with heroin or cocaine without the use knowing what they are getting.

You may recall a day last June when there were suddenly (overnight) five deaths and over 30 hospitalizations here in middle Georgia, including Centerville, Warner Robins, Perry and Macon. The fentanyl in those incidents – likely from the same drug dealer – was eight times stronger than morphine. These drugs could find your kids someday.
Addiction is ugly, whether it is heroin or nicotine. It sucks your soul into a dark hole full of danger, sorrow, loss, sickness and death.

If you are addicted, get help. Talk to a doctor, a nurse, a pastor or a friend. There is help available if you don’t wait too late.

Read this carefully: your opiates cannot help you. They cannot remove the source of your pain. They can, however, add to your pain beyond measure.

Guard your children. Have frank discussions with them. Watch their peer group carefully. Observe for changes in behavior, interests, friends, clothing, hair style or hygiene, falling grades, loss of interest in hobbies, people and life.

If you see danger signs, do something. Don’t be afraid to assert parental authority. If you are suspicious, bring your child, spouse or even parent in for drug testing. That may be difficult, but it will not be as difficult as sitting with my friend Mike Conner to plan a premature funeral.

Call me. I’ll help you with this phase of it.

Returning to the opening salvo of this bombardment, the best way to not eat more than one potato chip is to not eat the first one. Don’t join the epidemic.

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