Beware of addictive pain medications

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If you’re prescribed pain medication after being treated in an emergency room, you should be cautious.

New research from George Washington University School of Medicine that was released March 2014 indicates that the prescribing of opioids by emergency-room doctors increased 49 percent from 2001 to 2010. Meanwhile, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 16,651 people died of an opioid overdose in 2010, compared with 4,041 in 1999.

Dr. Ryan Stanton of American College of Emergency Physicians says doctors often prescribe opioids to patients who have back pain, sprains and tooth pain, even though these conditions can be treated just as effectively with over-the-counter medications. He worries that many doctors who are awarded pay incentives based on patient satisfaction prescribe stronger medications than are necessary to treat pain, he says.

Dr. Lynn Webster of American Academy of Pain Medicine says doctors sometimes prescribe potentially addictive opioids to patients for relief immediately after a bone is broken or after a serious sprain. Stanton and Webster add that if a doctor prescribes an opioid, he/she first should explain why the opioid would treat your pain better than would an over-the-counter painkiller.