Many people go through everyday aches and pains. Some people suffer because of old sports injuries, some from various accidents, and others because of disease. Most people rely on prescription pain relievers given to them by a doctor and don’t really consider some of the long-term effects. We in the Sickle Cell community depend on these medications and need to be informed about what we use. Vicodin is one of the most common pain relievers used by Sickle Cell patients and most other Americans dealing with pain. The formula for Vicodin is part Tylenol and part Oxycodone. Oxycodone is a synthetic form of heroin. A lot of police officers and drug counselors site pain medications such as Vicodin, Percocet, and Oxycontin as gateways to heroin addiction. According to the Center for Disease Control, 12 million people admitted to abusing prescription painkillers last year. Overdosing on these medications has become a big problem. Last year 100,000 people died from drug overdose. Side effects such as depression, lowered testosterone, and cardiovascular issues have been linked to most prescription painkillers. What can we do to avoid these issues?
Medical officials suggest that people should really think about if they need medication for their pain and “tough it out” if they don’t. Many people with Sickle Cell Disease know you can’t “just tough it out,” but there are things we can do to avoid the dangers of pain medications. Our goal is to have as few pain episodes as possible. Doing things like exercising, eating a healthy diet and using an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen can go a long way in preventing pain in the first place. If you do need to take pain medication, stick to the lowest dose that relieves your pain. If you are continuously taking pain medication in short periods of time, consider going to the emergency room to get further treatments such as oxygen and fluids.
People who feel they may have developed a dependency should talk to their doctor about alternative pain options and doses. Community and family support is also necessary to help people from falling into the dangers of prescription pain pill addiction. Do the things you need to do to stay healthy; you will have more time to pursue the things you want and live a long and productive life.
Published in September 2013 newsletter. Written by Karsten Weathersby