September 2, 2014

Pain medication addiction on the rise in Nebraska

Pain medication addiction is on the rise in Nebraska with some law enforcement officials calling it an epidemic.

University of Nebraska Medical Center Assistant Psychiatry Professor Dr. Aly Hassan says availability makes a difference.

“People don’t have to go through pain if there is a solution for that,” Hassan tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “So, the accessibility of pain treatment, our understanding of pain, has improved and we are more willing to treat it, but there is also a price.”

That prices is the misuse and abuse of prescription pain medication.

Hassan says the treatment of pain took a serious turn in the ‘90s. Pain, according to Hassan, became the 5th vital sign, joining the four primary vital signs of body temperature, pulse rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate.

Hassan says acute pain can affect not just quality of life, but quality of health. He says a person’s vital signs will normalize once the pain is treated.

Hydrocodone was the most prescribed drug in America last year.

“There’s availability of the drugs, a willingness to prescribe it and the ways of diverting it became much more available as well,” according to Hassan.

Hassan says individual doctors need to be more careful in issuing prescriptions, but he suggests a national registry of prescribed narcotics be kept as well.

Jane Monnich, KLIN, contributed to this report.