Over Medication: Sleeping ourselves to Death.
Research this week has shown us once more that we can do lots of things with medication. We can calm shaky nerves, make the sleepless slumber, and banish chronic pain. We do these with medications such as Ativan, Ambien, and Hydrocodone and they do work. Unfortunately, we are finding that this does not come without cost.
In a study that looked at 100,000 patients in the United Kingdom who took diazepam derivatives (Valium) related to lorazepam (Ativan), and sedative hypnotic sleeping pills like Ambien (zolpidem) a startling result was found. [i]The risk of death from all causes was doubled! The researchers were careful to explain that the study was a correlative study. They could not say that taking a sleeping pill or a nerve pill was the direct cause of the increased death rate. But, the correlation between the doubling of the death rate and taking these medications was real and substantial.
This research is important because our society has become fixated on the idea that if we have problems that are emotional or medical, there must be a medicine that can fix them. This viewpoint has had an impressive effect on the medical habits of our people.
In 2011 our five percent of the world’s population consumed 66% of all the psychiatric medications sold in the world. In addition we consumed 80% of all the worlds opiate derivative narcotic pain medicines.[ii] Since their introduction in 1988, the use of antidepressant medications in the United States has increased 400%.[iii] It is hard to believe that our 5% should be so troubled. But, our medicine cabinets would seem to say we are.
The most significant cost of this rising tide of prescription drug use is death by overdose.[iv] More people in the US today die of prescription drug overdoses than deaths due to overdoses of heroin and cocaine combined. Most all of these prescription overdose deaths will be due to the Opioid pain killers. Half the time the death will be due to a combination of Narcotic pain killer and the anti anxiety Valium type drugs and sleeping pills. IN 2008 more people died from these prescription drug overdoses than from car wrecks.
By now you must wonder where I am headed with all of this bad news. Well, it stands as a warning to all of us. As patients we should not expect to have every sleepless night, anxious moment or aching joint fixed with medicine. And, we should be carefully asking our prescriber what it is we are going to take and what the side effects and benefits are. As doctors we must take the greatest care when we prescribe medication that we know can alone or in combination with others kill the patient who takes them.
And, maybe it is time that we started looking for answers to more of our problems someplace besides a doctor’s office. This is very true for things like anxiety and sadness over loss. Talking with someone who is trained and skilled in counseling can achieve the same or better results than medication without the risk of medication side effects. It is also true for insomnia. Studies have shown that Cognitive Behavioral talk therapy helps those who struggle with sleep.[v]
Biblical counseling deals with these kinds of problems and does so without side effects. Counseling from the scriptures offers hope to those who are sad. It offers answers to those who worry. It gives encouragement for those who struggle with sleep and those who must deal with chronic pain. A couple of good sources for finding counselors trained in Biblical counseling are the websites for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (http://www.biblicalcounseling.com/ ) and the Biblical Counseling Coalition ( http://biblicalcounselingcoalition.org/ ).
[i] Effect of anxiolytic and hypnotic drug prescriptions on mortality hazards: retrospective cohort study
BMJ 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g1996 (Published 19 March 2014)
Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1996 Scott Weich et.al.
[ii] http://www.drugrehab.us/news/americans-gulping-down-80-percent-of-worlds-opiates/ The statistics listed are in the article at this web address.
[iv] http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/rxbrief/ The statistics in this paragraph come from this article at the Center for Disease Control website.