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Pain Pill Use

August 20, 2007, 5:26 PM by Jaine Andrews

Pain Pill Use
Americans are apparently living a life of pain and popping pills at an alarming rate to cope with it. And there's a new warning for nursing mothers. 

First, the dramatic rise in our use of painkillers. According to statistics from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the amount of five major painkillers sold at pharmacies has nearly doubled--up more than 90-percent-- since 1997. All tolled that adds up to more than 200-thousand pounds of codeine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone and demerol that was purchased during 2005. That's enough to give more than 300 milligrams of painkillers to every man, woman and child in the United States. 

According to the numbers, oxycodone, the chemical used in oxycontin is responsible for most of the increase. Use of oxycodone has jumped nearly six-fold since 1997. South Dakota's rate jumped a whopping 844 percent during the same time period. 

So what's behind the increase? According to doctors, the population is getting older and as age increases, so does the demand for pain medications. In addition, drug makers have conducted unprecedented marketing campaigns which have more people demanding a higher level of pain relief. 

Meanwhile, it's hydrocodone, or codeine, that's causing concern for nursing mothers. The Food and Drug Administration is concerned that nursing infants may be at an increased risk for a morphine overdose if their mothers are taking codeine while breastfeeding and are what is being referred to as "ultra-rapid metabolizers" of the drug. Codeine is sometimes used to treat episiotomy pain and once metabolized, is converted to morphine in the body. As a result, the FDA is now warning nursing mothers is not to take codeine or to take the lowest dose possible while breastfeeding their babies. 

The warning comes after a report that a 13-day old infant died as a result of a morphine overdose after nursing while his mother was taking codeine. Codeine is generally considered the safest pain reliever for nursing women and their babies.

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