In America, someone dies of a drug overdose every 19 minutes. While that includes street drugs, such as cocaine or heroin, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the majority of these deaths come from totally legal prescription drugs. In fact, accidental prescription drug overdoses in the United States now kill more people than heroin, crack and methamphetamine combined. This makes overdoses the number one accidental killer in the United States, higher even than car wrecks. Americans account for 80% of pain-related prescription drugs in the world, which is astounding when you consider that the United States is only 5% of the total world population. Even former President Bill Clinton, in an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta for CNN, agreed that this is a cultural issue and we have no business popping as many pills as we do. As we can see, the prescription drug epidemic that plagues this country is a much deeper problem than just treating illness with pills. The statistics are overwhelming, yet we hear very little on this issue due to strong drug lobbies in Washington that control regulation. Yet, it clearly points to a pharmaceutically controlled healthcare industry. Seeing as Lyme disease can mimic over 360 different conditions and bring about pain in so many different ways, coupled with so many undiagnosed patients, due to poor diagnostic criteria, Lyme represents one of the fastest growing infections in the world. That's our rationale for pointing the spotlight on Lyme disease. Many chronic Lyme disease patients are on painkillers for life because the disease has not been properly treated. What exactly are these issues and how do we go about truly making a difference? Let's explore a couple different ideas, including how certain conditions, such as chronic Lyme disease complex, may be a bigger factor than previously thought.
When you really look at it, pain pills don't treat disease, they only manage symptoms. If you take an opiate-based painkiller, such as oxycodone, your pain will disappear, but will not likely handle the cause. In a lot of cases, chronic pain is caused by chronic inflammation. For example, if your back is constantly in pain, it could be because of structural issues, autoimmune diseases, injuries, trauma, infections or a multitude of other factors that may be occurring simultaneously. If the cause is never resolved or becomes chronic, this leads to chronic inflammation, and overall degenerative diseases, such as a narrowing of the spine called spinal stenosis. So if you head into your local doctor and tell him about your pain, what will he do? Well, typically, unless the cause is rather obvious, he'll run a few preliminary tests. If they don't return any results and sometimes, even if they do, he'll then simply write you a prescription for some sort of drug and send you off on your way. Keep in mind that the average doctor's appointment in America only lasts 11 minutes, so you barely get any time to actually spend with the doctor. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act and rising cost of operations, this is only expected to worsen. Does this really seem like a proper way to diagnose and treat a patient? Some prescription drugs can be incredibly addictive, dangerous and have a high potential for abuse. In 2011, there were 30,000 drug overdoses, mostly accidental – almost 21,000 of which were prescription drug overdoses, 75% of which involved painkillers. But worst of all, these drugs often only blanket over the cause of illness and don't get to the root of the illness. In the U.S., estimated 225,000 deaths per year have iatrogenic causes ("originating from a physician"), with only heart disease and cancer causing more deaths.
One of the most commonly overlooked infections is Lyme disease, which is strange considering how fast this disease is spreading. Second only to AIDS, Lyme disease is among the fastest-growing infectious diseases in the United States, yet it is widely under-reported and misunderstood. In fact, some estimates suggest the number of Lyme disease cases is 15 times higher than what is reported. Keep in mind, the Center for Disease Control does not recognize chronic Lyme disease complex. They believe the disease should be only treated with a routine dose of antibiotics, but sometimes the bacteria can become embedded in the nervous system tissue, where it hides until leading to a relapse. Sometimes the bacteria can attack, activating many different coinfections (including, but not limited to cytomegalovirus, babesiosis, HHPV6 and many others) years after initial infection. Given that the CDC overlooks this disease, many conventional doctors do as well. But compare and contrast many of the symptoms of Lyme disease patients with those who have chronic pain.
As you can clearly see, there are a lot of similarities here. In recent years, there has been a sharp upswing in Lyme disease cases, due to the fact that there is more awareness of the disease. Many patients are really dealing with a much more complicated chronic version of these tick-borne illnesses. But as previously mentioned, chronic Lyme disease complex is often overlooked, ignored or misdiagnosed. This is just one example of how the conventional medical approach is inadequate in diagnosing the true cause of chronic pain. How many countless other ways are these doctors missing the point? And their solution is prescribing highly addictive, dangerous drugs? Furthermore, when prescriptions fail, it's off to surgery to once again manage the pain associated with the diseases. Remember, the people who die from accidental overdoses of prescription drugs aren't just junkies or people who can't read labels. It can be anyone. Sometimes it happens when patients accidentally mix different drugs or take drugs with alcohol or sometimes take too much. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. The skyrocketing amount of deaths directly correlates with the number of prescriptions being written. This model isn't just unethical, it's incredibly deadly. This is why it's more important than ever to consider all your options, including alternative, integrative medical approaches. You don't see the FDA getting on these safety issues because they are all medications that they approved. They were originally designed for cancer treatment, but now doctors are using them in off-label methods in any way they seem fit.
Integrative medicine is unique because it combines many conventional practices with innovative, new medical approaches that are backed-up by scientific research. Integrative personalized medicine is focused on treating real causes to pain and not giving pain management medications as the focus. When dealing with chronic pain, for example, our medical team looks at all angles of the condition including past medical history, infection, structural integrity, chemical toxicity, nutrition, immune function and more. To learn more about our treatment options and how we can help you, please contact us. We are happy to help.