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Why Are Painkillers Dangerous For Pregnant Women?

A nurse recently asked a very important question that bears repeating: What effect does long-term use of pain pills have on pregnant women? She was concerned because of the increase in number of pregnant women who are taking pain pills on a long term basis based on previous surgeries, accidents or a history of chronic pain.

The most common “pain pills” prescribed are opiates which effectively eliminate or reduce pain but have a great tendency to be abused. Opioids are natural and synthetic type drugs that have the characteristics of morphine. It can only be obtained with a prescription and unfortunately physicians contribute to the problem of dependency and abuse through their lack of scrutiny regarding patient requests. My present home state of Florida has the unsavory distinction of being known as the country’s largest pill mill and it was reported that 80 percent of opiates were not dispensed by pharmacists but by physicians who dispense them from their offices. Consequently, the Florida legislators now prohibit physicians from dispensing opiates in their offices with rare exceptions.

Why are opiates or pain killers dangerous for pregnant women? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

What Some Patients Will Do For Drugs: A Strange Phone Call Late At Night

9:00 pm:

Hello. It’s Mrs. Mumbledimumbler; I need the doctor to call me right away. My hip is driving me crazy. Please call me.

I listen to the message three times so I can sort of make out the name. The problem is that even though I think I can understand it, I don’t recognize it at all. But I call her because she said she needed me to call her right away.

Hello. I need you to call me in some tramadol right away.

“What was your name again?”

She repeats it clearly enough for me to confirm that I really don’t recognize it.

“Have I ever seen you in the office?”


Let me get this straight: it’s 9:00 at night and your hip is hurting, so you call a doctor who’s a complete stranger and insist that they call you in a powerful painkiller without ever having seen you, taken your medical history, or examined you? I don’t think so.

“Um, I’m sorry ma’am, but I really can’t do that unless you’re an established patient in my office.”

Oh, okay; never mind.

I suppose I should count my lucky stars that she didn’t want vicodin.

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

Why It’s Wrong To Call Drug Seekers A “Micropopulation”

I don’t know what’s going on with American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) lately, but it’s disheartening. Their abdication of responsibility and engagement during the healthcare reform debate was depressing. Then there was a rigged poll designed to elicit a predetermined result. Now I see a bizarre op-ed piece in USA Today entitled “Opposing view on drug addiction: Don’t make us ‘pain police’” and authored by ACEP President Angela Gardener. An excerpt:

The patient-physician relationship is sacrosanct, demanding candor and trust. In the emergency department, trust is built in nanoseconds because patients and doctors do not have prior relationships. Knowing that any pain prescription will be entered into a large, public database might prevent patients from being truthful, or in the worst case, from seeking needed care. … As an emergency physician, I can assure you that the drug abusers who use the emergency room simply to get a prescription drug fix represent a micropopulation of the 120 million patients who seek emergency care every year in the USA. … Put bluntly, if legislators have money to spend, they should spend it where it will do the most good for our patients, and that is not on drug databases.

I really don’t know what to say, other than to wonder whether Dr. Gardner and I practice in the same United States in which abuse of prescription drugs is growing exponentially and in which “drug-seeking” patients are a part of each and every shift worked in the ER, where deaths due to overdoses of prescription medications are on the rise, and where diversion of narcotics is a serious and growing problem. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*

From Drug Addict To Grad School: This Is Why I Blog

Last July we wrote about the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and spoke of Buzz Aldrin’s autobiography about his battle with alcoholism in the years following. The post drew a comment from a reader who I’ve renamed “Anon.” It read:

Thank you so much for this post.

I am a recovering drug addict and am in the process of applying to graduate programs. I have a stellar GPA, have assisted as an undergraduate TA, and have been engaged in research for over a year. I also have a felony and was homeless for 3 years.

I don’t hide my recovery from people once I know them, but I sometimes, especially at school, am privy to what people think of addicts when they don’t know one is sitting next to them. It scares me to think of how to discuss my past if asked at an admissions interview. Or whether it will keep me from someday working at a university.

I’ve seen a fair amount of posts on ScienceBlogs concerning mental health issues and academia, but this is the first I’ve seen concerning humanizing addiction and reminding us that addiction strikes a certain amount of the population regardless of status, family background or intelligence.

I really appreciate this post. Thank you.

While I’m not a substance abuse researcher, many drugs of abuse come from my research area (natural products) — think cocaine, morphine and other opiates. I also have special compassion for folks with the biochemical predisposition to substance dependence, as I come from a long line of alcoholics, including my beloved father who I lost way too early. 

With that said, I’m sure you understand how Anon’s comment hit me and how grateful I was for her appreciation. So moving, in fact, that I raised her comment to its own post. Since many of you are in academia and serve on graduate admissions committees, I figured you’d have some good advice for her. Well, you did. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

Physicians Under Pressure To Prescribe Narcotics

When it comes to opiate drugs, like morphine, there is a bitter debate between patients who are in chronic pain, and the doctors who are vilified for under or over-prescribing these medications.

But there are some other subtle influences that push doctors to prescribe these drugs, in some cases inappropriately. An ER physician talks about the issue, saying, “when dealing with a patient who is in pain, or appears to be, it can be impossible to sort out when a patient needs opiates for legitimate reasons, and when it is merely feeding a long term addiction. We are trained to provide comfort and relief from suffering to our patients, and we generally will err on the side of treating pain, rather than withholding addictive medications.”

There is also the pressure to provide “patient satisfaction,” and indeed, low scores in this area can place a doctor’s job in jeopardy. Taking a stand against those who inappropriately request opiates will result in low patient satisfaction scores, and “will often times result in arguments, profanity, and calls and letters to administration.”

What’s the answer? Perhaps a little less reliance on these scores, since a good patient satisfaction score is not necessarily correlated with proper medicine.

*This blog post was originally published at*

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IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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