Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Painkiller Use Found to Cause Serious Birth Defects - Repercussions?

A recent study led by a team at the Centers for Disease Control found that women who use some opioid pain killers early in their pregnancies may be putting their unborn babies at risk for serious birth defects including heart and spinal deformities.

This news, while welcomed by the chronic pain community, will not likely be popular.  Nevertheless, I think it's vital to spread to our groups, because until now physicians have told us that these drugs have little chance of causing problems - much less than other pain medications - in unborn babies.

As a Migraineur, I used some of these drugs while pregnant.  Thank goodness my Migraine issues weren't as severe as they are now, and I didn't have to use them early in my pregnancy when the most damage seems to occur.  Instead, I was one of those unlucky women whose Migraines were triggered later on in the pregnancy, when they could suddenly turn on me mercilessly.  In those instances (and when I had kidney stones) during pregnancy, my doctors felt that giving me the medication was the safest thing for a pregnancy that was already at risk. 

There is another side of the story that makes this a hot topic today... the fact that the war on the illicit use of prescription drugs - painkillers in particular - has led to grave difficulty for honest chronic pain patients to have their pain issues appropriately treated.  We are the collateral damage in this war.  Now this study gives the powers that be more ammunition and yet another reason to consider pulling helpful drugs off the market (Darvocet and Darvon were the latest casualties in this war) leaving many in the epidemic of chronic pain patients little to nowhere to go.  

As leaders in the chronic pain community, we can help drive this problem of collateral damage - in either direction:

On one hand, by not using and protecting our medications appropriately, we give our doctors reason to think twice before giving a prescription.

On the other hand, if we are the driving forces behind warning pregnant women and those of childbearing age, perhaps we can create awareness among physicians and the powers that be that this is indeed enough of a concern for our community that we should be not only heard but respected.  They need to understand that we are on their side!

We need to create awareness not only of under-treated pain, but also of this community's resourcefulness and dedication to eliminating the illicit and improper use of these drugs that our government entities are so concerned with.  We need to be sure that we are not only advocating for the appropriate options for these drugs, but also the appropriate use by our community members. 

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