Cure the Ailment, Don’t Suppress It

By CHRIS GEORGE / Guest Columnist

Some time ago, I was experiencing excruciating headaches that wouldn’t go away. The only time I would go to the doctor was if I was ordered to do so by my bride.

I received such a directive to go see a “specialist”. I went to a local doctor, within Shelby County, explained the issues with the headache and walked out with no plan to determine what may be causing the headaches, but he did give me four prescriptions with high quantities of pills for each.

One was for depression, which I made no mention of being depressed; one was to help me sleep, and I made no mention of needing more sleep; and two were very potent pain killers…opiates to be exact. As I sat in my car and looked at the prescriptions, I concluded that I had just experienced what I speak about to groups to what we know is a major problem in our country.

To be more specific, Alabama is addicted. According to the 2012 IMS National Prescription Audit, Alabamians were prescribed 143 painkillers for every 100 people. We are ranked as the nation’s highest consumer of painkillers.

Several states have implemented programs that are making a difference in their rates of prescription pill overdoses. This was done by regulating pain clinics and requiring doctors to review the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program prior to prescribing opiates. These simple actions can curb the rate of “doctor shopping” and keep excess amounts of painkillers out of medicine cabinets and off the street.  As I left the parking that day with prescriptions for pills that had over $1,000 in street value, I knew what needed to be done. Those prescriptions were shredded and I sought a more reliable second opinion from a doctor that prescribed no medication and cured the headache. He sought to cure the ailment, not suppress it.  We need our doctors to be cautious in how they prescribe painkillers, citizens that know when to say no and true desire to wean ourselves off painkillers.

Chris George is the commander of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division.