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Australia’s Prescription Painkiller Epidemic

Melbourne Chiropractor calls for greater awareness around opioid painkiller side effects

For Immediate Release

5 June 2017

A record number of Australians are accidentally overdosing on prescription medicines in what medical authorities have labeled ‘an opioid epidemic.' According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of deaths from prescription painkillers - opioids - has increased 61 percent between 2004-2014. Further key facts and figures are showing no stopping this hidden health crisis. However, the real question is, why is this happening?


Medical authorities such as The Penington Institute note that the deaths caused by opioid over prescription between 2008-2014 underscore how severe the overdose crisis is in Australia. 69 percent of all drug-related deaths in Australia come from prescription painkillers.


To bring more attention to this public health issue, it is essential to understand the reasons why these medications are being prescribed and how they may affect us adversely. 58 percent of non-cancer prescriptions are for musculoskeletal issues, commonly including back pain and neck pain. Melbourne based Chiropractor, Doctor Ian Deitch (Chiropractor), had this to say on back pain:


“It is totally understandable why so many back pain sufferers take these medications. We have been brought up to believe that if we have pain we see a doctor, get a prescription, take the medication and the pain will go away,” Dr. Deitch said.


“The problem is not the pain but rather the underlying cause resulting in pain. Think of it like this, your house is burning, the fire department arrives, rushes in and turns the fire alarm off but leaves the fire burning. Pain killers turn off the body’s fire alarm and leave the fire burning,” He said.


The medical compound in question - opioids - are one of the most commonly prescribed drug classes for pain. Alarmingly, the efficacy of long-term opioid use has been called into question. A Cochrane Review showed that the adverse reactions far outweigh the beneficial effects of opioids in treating back pain.

Dr. Deitch said pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong.


“Taking medication to deal with the pain and not addressing the underlying problem is probably going to lead to further complications later on,” He said.


Although the prevalence of opioid overdose and accidental death is an urgent issue to be addressed, there is also growing awareness that other forms of treatment, including chiropractic care, have a role to play in aiming to correct one of the problems at its source - musculoskeletal injuries that cause pain.


Research over the last several decades has demonstrated time and time again the benefits of chiropractic care for many musculoskeletal problems. This is not limited to low back and neck problems but includes many other conditions chiropractors deal with on a daily basis.


All forms of healing have their place, but when research shows prescribed medical remedies are not solving the problem, we need to rethink what we are doing. In the first instance, natural and lower risk treatment options, such as chiropractic, should be considered in some cases. Clearly, if the benefits of chiropractic treatment are more widely known to the Australian public, this hidden health crisis can be better addressed.


Dr. Ian Deitch (Chiropractor)

Chirolife Rosanna

(03) 9458 3255