Vicodin was the most prescribed drug in the U.S. last year, and the popular painkiller's addictive nature may be cause for concern.
In an interview with Varney & Co., Dr. Marc Siegel explained that the 131 million prescriptions that were written for the drug last year are alarming.
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"They like to say it is not because of addiction, but you go in for a procedure, or you hurt your leg and somebody gives you this stuff, and you can't get off it," he said.
According to Dr. Siegel, after about a month it is not uncommon for patients to stop feeling the effects of Vicodin. "All you know is if you don't have it, you feel bad," he said, a reliance that begins once the brain stops making its own hormones.
The ease with which the drug can be obtained is also a problem, Siegel said. "As long as you have prescriptions from different doctors you can shop around."
According to Dr. Siegel, the Drug Enforcement Administration can crack down on the use and distribution of Vicodin, but are not doing it the way they should. With few restrictions, patients are eliminating permanent solutions like surgery and instead opting to minimize their pain with Vicodin.
"There are not enough procedures being done right now because it is hard to get insurance approval. So people who are in pain go to a pain doctor and get right on the stuff," said Dr. Siegel.
Dr. Siegel believes the Obama administration's health-care law will only make this problem worse by denying patients surgery if they cannot prove the procedure is life saving, but said there are other solutions.
"The safest alternative is to understand the difference between acute pain and chronic pain. If you have so called 'chronic pain,' you may actually be addicted to the painkillers."
As an alternative to Vicodin, Siegel recommends Motrin or Ibuprofin.