By Dr. Joseph Mercola 03/18/2015 http://www.mercola.com
to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lethal heroin overdoses nearly quadrupled between 2000 and
2013 in the US, escalating from 0.7 to 2.7 deaths per 100,000 during this timeframe.
deaths were nearly four times more prevalent among men than women in 2013, and lethal overdoses were highest among Caucasians
between the ages of 25 and 44. The greatest increase in heroin-related deaths was seen after 2010.
noted by Medical News Today:
"During the period investigated, the researchers
found an average increase in heroin-related drug-poisoning deaths of six percent per year from 2000 through to 2010.
2010 through 2013, the average increase was a staggering 37 percent per year..."
Painkillers Are the New Gateway Drugs
What many fail to realize is that this trend is actually fueled
by legal drug addiction. The reason for the resurgence of heroin is in large part due to it being less expensive
than its prescription counterparts.
Addictive prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet,
codeine, and Fentora, all of which are opioids (derivatives of opium) are widely overprescribed for pain.
painkiller addicts also turn to heroin when their tolerance level surpasses their allotted prescription dosage, or when they're
no longer allowed to refill their prescription.
According to previous statistics, prescriptions
for opioid painkillers have risen by a staggering 300 percent over the past decade. As of 2012,
259 million prescriptions for opioids and other narcotic painkillers were written in the US, and these drugs actually
claim far more lives than heroin does.
In 2010, prescription
painkillers were responsible for 16,600 deaths;
heroin was involved in about 3,000. By 2013, the number of heroin deaths had increased to 8,257,
but as noted in the featured article:
"Although heroin-related drug-poisoning
deaths have increased sharply in recent years, the overall rate is still considerably lower than that for opioid analgesics.
In addition, NIDA [National
Institute on Drug Abuse] suggest that the abuse of prescription opioids such as Oxycontin and Vicodin could be the first
step toward heroin abuse for many people."
Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer
at a drug treatment center called Phoenix House has also previously spoken out on this issue, noting that:
use is increasing because we have an epidemic of opioid addiction (caused by overexposure of our population to painkillers)
and not enough has been done to expand access to treatment in communities hit hardest."
Conflicts of Interest Fuel Narcotic Prescription Rates
Despite dramatic increases in prescriptions,
two recent papers assert that no solid evidence can be found in the medical literature supporting the long-term safety and
effectiveness of narcotic painkillers.
Many suffering from chronic pain end up using
painkillers for years on end, yet there are no studies longer than one year on record. Most trials do not go past six weeks.
There's also a lack of standardized trials evaluating the side effects of opioid use, which
is the "golden standard" of medical science-based evidence. With such blatant lack of safety and effectiveness
backing their use, why are so many people getting prescriptions for narcotic painkillers?
pregnant women are being prescribed these highly addictive and dangerous drugs! According to one recent study more
than 14 percent of pregnant women were prescribed opioid drugs during their pregnancy, despite the risks for birth defects
and other pregnancy-related problems.
Not surprisingly, financial conflicts of interest
appear to be part of the answer. As reported by Reading Eagle:
two papers, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, highlight a key issue in one of the major medical controversies
of the last decade: how America got thrust into an opioid epidemic...
revealed that behind that surge in opioid prescribing was a network of pain organizations, doctors, and researchers that pushed
for expanded use of the drugs while taking in millions of dollars from the companies that made them."
Are Also Widely Overprescribed
A recent article in The New York Times penned
by Psychiatrist Julie Holland highlights another disturbing trend, namely that of medicating away our emotional pain. While
men tend to be more prone to get hooked on painkillers, women are more apt to fall into the antidepressant drug trap. Dr.
"Sales of antidepressants and antianxiety meds have been booming in the past
two decades, and they've recently been outpaced by an antipsychotic, Abilify, that is the No. 1 seller among all drugs in
the United States, not just psychiatric ones. As a psychiatrist practicing for twenty years, I must tell you, this is insane..."
to Dr. Holland, one in four American women is on a psychiatric drug, as is one in seven men. And, while some are helped by
these drugs, many are not. In fact, most simply do not need them, and are needlessly placing their health at risk, as these
drugs come with a laundry list of serious side effects.
It's also well worth noting that researchers
have concluded there is very little evidence that selective serotonin
reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft,
and others) have any benefit to people with mild to moderate depression, and that they actually do not work any better than
"People who don't really need these drugs are trying to medicate a normal
reaction to an unnatural set of stressors: lives without nearly enough sleep, sunshine, nutrients, movement and eye contact,
which is crucial to us as social primates..." Dr.
The new, medicated normal is at odds with women's dynamic biology; brain and body
chemicals are meant to be in flux. To simplify things, think of serotonin as the 'it's all good' brain chemical. Too high
and you don't care much about anything; too low and everything seems like a problem to be fixed.
the days leading up to menstruation, when emotional sensitivity is heightened, women may feel less insulated, more irritable,
or dissatisfied. I tell my patients that the thoughts and feelings that come up during this phase are genuine, and perhaps
it's best to re-evaluate what they put up with the rest of the month, when their hormone and neurotransmitter levels are more
likely programmed to prompt them to be accommodating to others' demands and needs."
Emotionally Numb Is Hardly Healthy...
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) enhance serotonin
transmission in your brain, but as Dr. Holland notes, higher serotonin levels does not necessarily equate to improved emotional
health... While SSRIs can remove feelings of anxiety, they can also numb you both emotionally and physically - in fact, reduced
libido is a common side effect. Also, antidepressants do not actually boost positive emotions; they merely blunt the negative
ones. At first glance, this may sound appealing, but there's a price to pay for numbing your emotional repertoire across the
board. As noted by Dr. Holland:
"Some people on SSRIs have also reported less of many other
human traits: empathy, irritation, sadness, erotic dreaming, creativity, and anger, expression of their feelings, mourning,
and worry... At higher doses,
SSRI's make it difficult to cry. They can also promote apathy and indifference... If the serotonin levels of women are constantly,
artificially high, they are at risk of losing their emotional sensitivity with its natural fluctuations...
comes from the discomfort and awareness that something is wrong; we know what's right only when we feel it. If medicated means
complacent, it helps no one. When we are overmedicated, our emotions become synthetic. For personal growth, for a satisfying
marriage, and for a more peaceful world, what we need is more empathy, compassion, receptivity, emotionality, and vulnerability,
not less. We need to stop labeling our sadness and anxiety as uncomfortable symptoms, and to appreciate them as a healthy,
adaptive part of our biology." [Italics
mine, Dr. Mercola]
A Nation Running from Pain...
you start looking at the big picture, it becomes rather evident that Americans are running from pain - both emotional and
physical - and have bought the lie that happiness and comfort can be induced by chemical substances... All of the statistics
covered in this article point to the fact that the US is a nation in crisis, and we're looking for solutions in the wrong
places. Instead of facing our pains and dissatisfactions head on, we're suppressing them in order to keep going "as usual."
The only ones getting ahead right now is the drug companies. Most everyone else is getting a raw deal...
and physical pain often go hand in hand; the good news is that by addressing depression, you can oftentimes achieve pain reduction
as well, and vice versa (if you happen to suffer from both). Another piece of good news is that there are many non-drug alternatives
out there that are far safer, and often as or more effective than drugs, and this applies both to pain reduction and depression.
Following is a list of mind-body techniques that can help ease both pain and depression.
- Foods have an immense impact on your body and your brain, and eating whole foods will best support your mental and physical
health. Avoiding sugar (particularly processed fructose) will help normalize your insulin and leptin levels, which is another
important aspect of depression. Sugar causes chronic inflammation, which disrupts your body's normal immune function and can
wreak havoc on your brain. Sugar also suppresses a key growth hormone called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), which
promotes healthy brain neurons. BDNF levels are critically low in people with depression, which animal models suggest may
actually be causative. I also recommend taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat, like krill oil. This may be the
single most important nutrient for optimal brain function, thereby preventing depression.
Exercise - Getting regular
exercise is one of the "secret weapons" to overcoming depression. It works by helping to normalize your insulin
levels while boosting the "feel good" hormones such as serotonin and endorphins in your brain.
your vitamin D - Getting safe sun exposure, which
allows your body to produce vitamin D, is great for your mood. One study even found that people with the lowest levels of
vitamin D were 11 times more prone to depression than those who received adequate amounts of vitamin D.
Massage - Massage affects your nervous system
through nerve endings in your skin, stimulating the release of endorphins, which are natural "feel-good" chemicals.
Getting a massage has been shown to relieve pain from migraines, labor, fibromyalgia and even cancer; reduce stress, anxiety,
and depression; decrease symptoms of PMS; and can provide arthritis relief by increasing joint flexibility.
Mindfulness and other forms of meditation - Practicing
"mindfulness" means that you're actively paying attention to the moment you're in right now. Mindfulness training
has been found to reduce levels of stress-induced inflammation, which could benefit people suffering from chronic inflammatory
conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and asthma. Practicing mindfulness meditation for just four
days can decrease pain responses in your brain.
Mantra - The repeated
incantation of a mantra—a soothing or uplifting word or phrase of your choice—in a rhythmic fashion can help you
relax in a similar way as mindfulness training. The focused repetition, also called autogenic training, helps keep your mind
from wandering and worrying, and engages your body's relaxation response. In one study, migraine sufferers were able to decrease
the frequency and intensity of their headaches using autogenic training. Other research suggests it may provide helpful longer-term
effects on symptoms of depression.
Biofeedback - Biofeedback allows you to monitor your biological
changes, thereby helping you achieve a deeper state of relaxation and teaching you to control your heart rate, blood pressure,
and muscle tension through your mind. Biofeedback is often used for stress-related conditions, such as migraines and tension-type
headaches, fibromyalgia, back pain, depression, and anxiety.
- Deep breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which induces the relaxation response. Dr. Weil's breathing technique works as a natural tranquilizer for
your nervous system. The Buteyko Breathing
Method helps improve oxygenation of your
tissues and organs, including your brain, and can be particularly helpful to quell a panic attack or control anxiety.
muscle relaxation - Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is achieved by tensing and relaxing all the major muscle groups, one
at a time, from head to toe. By learning to feel the difference between tension and relaxation, you can more actively disengage
your body's fight-or-flight response, which underlies most pain, depression, and stress.
Tai Chi - While practicing tai chi, your
mind is meant to stay focused on your movements, relaxation and deep breathing, while distracting thoughts are ignored. Part
of the allure is that it's so gentle, it's an ideal form of activity for people with pain or other conditions that prevent
more vigorous exercise. You can even do tai chi if you're confined to a wheelchair. The medical literature shows tai chi helps
reduce depression, anxiety, and stress.
Yoga - Yoga has been proven to be particularly
beneficial if you suffer with back pain, and can also be of tremendous benefit for your mental health. According to recent
findings, yoga appears to have a positive effect on mild depression, sleep problems, schizophrenia (among patients using medication),
and ADHD (among patients using medication). Some studies suggest yoga can have a similar effect to antidepressants and psychotherapy,
by influencing neurotransmitters and boosting serotonin.
Neurostructural Integration Technique (NST) - Using a series of gentle
moves on specific muscles or at precise points on your body creates an energy flow and vibrations between these points. This
allows your body to rebalance itself. The main objective is to remove pain and dysfunctional physiological conditions by restoring
the structural integrity of the body. In essence, NST provides the body with an opportunity to reintegrate on many levels,
and thus return to and maintain normal homeostatic limits on a daily basis.
and guided imagery - Visualization techniques or guided imagery can serve as an important tool to combat both physical pain
and depression by imagining being in "a better place" and promoting a state of relaxation. Ideally, you'll want
to immerse yourself as fully as you possibly into your visualization, using all your senses: seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing,
and feeling, as using all your senses changes levels of brain chemicals, such as serotonin, epinephrine, and endorphins.
- Hypnosis, which is a trance-like state in which you experience heightened focus and concentration, can help decrease pain
by altering your emotional responses to your body's pain signals and your thoughts about the pain. Contrary to popular belief,
you do not relinquish control over your behavior while under hypnosis, but it does render you more open to suggestions from
the hypnotherapist. In addition to managing pain, cognitive hypnotherapy has been shown to lessen depression and anxiety better
than cognitive behavioral therapy.