If you've ever had a root canal, you know the agony that can trigger a need for pain medication. In fact, there are plenty of physical woes that disappear with a prescription for Vicodin or similar painkiller. There's just one problem: These medications can be so addictive that doctors now have to beware of dispensing the drugs to abusers.
Prescription drug abuse is a growing crime across the nation. In Wisconsin, such medicines are involved in 70 percent of the overdose deaths in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, according to a report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. That number far exceeds the number of overdoses on illegal drugs.
Given these statistics, it's no wonder doctors are hesitant to hand out prescription drugs to people who might turn around and sell them on the street. But how can they differentiate between those who are truly hurting and those who are either addicted or trying to make a profit?
The quandary is especially difficult for doctors in departments without regular patients, such as in hospital emergency rooms. Many of those treated in ER departments don't have a regular physician. They may not have health insurance, either, which means they tend to put off seeking help for their ailments until they can't bear them anymore. That can make it very hard for physicians to tell whether a patient is truly in pain or simply out for a fix. Without knowing the patient or having the capacity to run tests that would indicate pain, there's a risk of fostering drug addicts.
Compounding the problem is that many people can't afford care for specific types of pain -- namely, dental pain. Many dentists don't accept Medicaid, so those who forgo the dentist often end up in the emergency room, where they may or may not get the relief they need.
Some of those who are denied medication or lack the access to it resort to buying it from an illegal dealer, which can lead to criminal charges if they're caught. Once things reach this level, it's time to reach out for professional help. If you have a legal problem with prescription drugs, you may be ready to consult an attorney who focuses on drug crimes. After all, the last thing you need to add to your pain is a lengthy prison sentence.
Source: The New York Times, "E.R. Doctors Face Quandary on Painkillers," Catherine Saint Lewis, April 30, 2012