There is a national opioid epidemic. Opiate related deaths have surpassed motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of injury-related fatality in the US. Since 1999 the prescribing and sales of opioids has quadrupled. The director of the CDC says that there is no other medication that’s routinely used for nonfatal conditions that kills patients so frequently. Doctors are overprescribing opiates for people with chronic pain outside of those who have active cancer, palliative, and end-of-life care.

The CDC and the FDA’s answer to this is to call for more warnings and guidelines… but they’ve had no demonstrable impact; doctors are not writing fewer prescriptions, and even if they follow the guidelines and tell patients all the potential complications, and even if they only prescribe them for short periods of time, the vulnerable will become dependent and find other prescribers.

Opiates are not the only thing that doctors are over-prescribing. The CDC has also just reported that about a third of children suffering from ADHD have the diagnosis made by the time they’re six years old; and three out of four children diagnosed are put on medicine even though research finds the behavior therapy is as effective and doesn’t give them stomach aches, sleep problems, other side effects (and whose long-term impact are still unknown).  But the work of modifying one’s thoughts and behaviors seems so much harder than the seductive promise of immediate relief.

The answer to this problem is not in issuing more warnings and packaging guidelines, it is in changing a healthcare culture that promotes the idea that if you’re feeling anything other than wonderful in every moment there is a pill to cure you. Everyone wants immediate relief from whatever ails them… but chronic pain and behavioral problems are generally not eliminated by pills, but by the hard work of learning how to change your behavior.

It doesn’t matter what you are suffering from, the critical issue is recognizing that whatever it is, it is you who have got it…not it that’s got you. You can make better choices than believing the answers are in pills; find the answers within… explore all the alternatives to medications that exist from herbal medicine to CBT, find something and then commit yourself to doing the healing work that’s necessary… and you will overcome.

P.S. If you want some ideas about how to create a new ending to old painful stories,  read my mini e-book Stop Your Sh*t Shoveling (available at healingdoc.com )