I remember hearing a female politician’s comments on a morning talk show about thirty years ago. She was speaking about the use of drugs in the United States. The reality of increased drug use had become the topic of many on and off screen discussions. Her defining base for the prevalent use was derived from pure logic. And she wasn’t placing the blame entirely on the use of illegal substances. She made a statement which placed responsibility on the medical profession and those who produce ‘over-the-counter medications. ‘Americans are brainwashed into thinking that we should always feel good. If you’re in pain, take a pill; if you’re depressed, take a pill; if you are stressed, take a pill; if you are overweight, take a pill; if you can’t sleep, take a pill; and if you can’t stay alert during the day, take a pill.’ She said that sometimes we simply must deal with the everyday situations in life without seeking solutions through chemistry.

The CDC has released a study revealing a suspected but unproven situation which affects thousands of women between the ages of 15 and 44, considered ‘child-bearing years.’ The prescription drugs hydrocodone, codeine and oxycodone, were given to this group of women to alleviate moderate to severe chronic pain. The opioids have severe side effects, especially if ingested by a pregnant woman.

The damage from these opioids occurs primarily in the first trimester, and often before the women are aware that they are pregnant. Birth defects include spina bifida, heart defects and gastroschisis; (when the intestines are located outside of the abdominal wall).

The study was conducted between 2008 and 2012. Scientists discovered an alarming increase in the percentage of opioid usage throughout the last 15 years as physicians increased the number of prescriptions for the pain relieving drugs.

The study also stated that although it us reasonable for the opioids to be prescribed for short periods of time to relieve serious pain, long-term use is not recommended, and they should not be used to ease acute pain.

Scientists suggest that women between 15 and 44 who are currently using opioids should consult their doctor if they are considering a future pregnancy. If a woman becomes pregnant while using the drugs, they should immediately seek their physician’s counsel.

By James Turnage



Photo courtesy of Ed Yourdon

Flickr License

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