Ketamine & Opioids Stop Working – TOLERANCE – the body no longer responds no matter how high the dose


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The comments below on ketamine tolerance apply to its use either for intractable pain or major depressive disorder. I have written about ketamine several times since April 2009. Tolerance means the medication no longer has an effect. If ketamine is to be needed for decades to come, we don’t have more than 10 years experience with repeated use to understand if and when it will stop working for our patients.

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Tolerance to ketamine is a growing potential as more infusion centers open each year.

Infusions are being used at fixed dosages

that are often too high or toxic

and predispose to tolerance and loss of efficacy.

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I’ve seen two cases of ketamine tolerance since about 2009 among persons with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). And the neuropathic pain of CRPS responds differently than other pain syndromes. We are all snowflakes, not one of us is alike another. But CRPS is unpredictable in many ways, and very predictable in others. It is also more dynamic and capable of being reversed in many who have it.

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Ketamine is given usually IV in a few centers in the country for CRPS and for Major Depressive Disorder. I prescribe it either via nasal spray or under tongue. I may, later this year, offer IV infusions to a small number of my patients who need both.

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If tolerance develops, would drug holidays work?

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Some people develop tolerance to their medication. In the old days, when I was training in the 1970’s, Parkinsons medication over time would stop working. Our only recourse was to do an inpatient drug holiday for weeks. We had to stop the drug. The resting tremor, the constant flailing, was exhausting and life threatening, especially if you had a heart condition. Newer Parkinson’s drugs completely circumvent this.

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Would drug holidays work if tolerance develops for ketamine or is it a goner forever?

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Opioids can cause tolerance through a known mechanism. They produce inflammation that causes more pain. Higher and higher doses fail to help pain. Addicts seek the high they once felt but cannot capture. This is why addicts die, chasing the impossible. Detox. Drug holiday. In the case of addiction, many are placed on Subutex, an opioid that acts on two opioid receptors and seems to prevent craving, in part at least because it has such a long half life that the blood level never dips.

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Ketamine infusions centers springing up.

Is that all they do?

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NIH and Yale began to test IV ketamine infusions in the 1990’s for major depressive disorder, and Robert Schwartzman, MD, at Hahneman in Philadelphia was one of the early ones to infuse ketamine for CRPS and contribute a large body of research on this pain.

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But in the last 2 or 3 years I receive a growing number of mailings advertising ketamine infusion centers. Just that, nothing more. Ketamine infusion centers, not pain specialists. All these young anesthesiologists popping out of training every year have a cash pay business; insurance doesn’t cover.

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Will ketamine stop working for patients who need to use it regularly for decades and decades? We don’t know. It should be studied.

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The first patient I saw with ketamine tolerance, I referred from San Diego to Professor Schwartzman in Philadelphia. She received inpatient IV around the clock for one week, then outpatient IV boosters every month. After eight months, she stopped responding. That’s when I called him to ask what to do? He did not know. So I used glial modulators. I posted her case years ago. She is in her 70’s, pain free since 2010, and two weeks ago, as a volunteer for the Red Cross, she supervised RN’s and evacuees from the flooding at Oroville dam. Tens of thousands of people, emergency care for families and homeless.

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A recent patient has had more than 20 surgeries in her hand that has CRPS. She has failed  IV ketamine, opioids, propofol given together in ICU for weeks and weeks. Surgery triggers the glia to produce neuro-inflammation.

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Another case though unusual, also posted years ago, a young male athlete, bedridden with CRPS affecting almost entire body. Flew to Professor Schwartzman 9 times and each time, the relief was gone by the time they reached the airport. He was taking opioid medication that may have been impossible to offset.

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This is what I advise when I prescribe ketamine for my patients to use at home as a nasal spray or sublingual:

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  1. Do not use it with opioids.Opioids cause inflammation, ketamine does the opposite. It modulates (reduces) inflammation.

  2. Never use it alone. It is a glial modulator, it is not only an NMDA receptor inhibitor.

  3. For intractable, treatment resistant cases, use as many glial modulators as you can.

  4. Ultra low dose naltrexone (20 micrograms TID) can profoundly reduce tolerance in patients on opioids: they may now need 1/2 to 1/8th the dose of opioid that simply had never quite done enough. Naltrexone not only relieves pain, it may profoundly improve function.

  5. Opioids stimulate glia to produce pro-inflammatory cytokines -> pain. Stop opioids if you can. You are likely to get far better results with glial modulators, especially if you have CRPS.

  6. Pain specialists should be offering a trial of glial modulators before they choose opioids for life.

  7. Use glial modulators as needed: ketamine, oxytocin (a hormone), tricyclic antidepressants (weaker than the others but can be profound for some), metformin.

  8. Metformin, a glial modulator!  for pain! in people who do not have diabetes. I will be posting on it this coming week — inshallah

  9.  Use it sparingly. Whether ketamine or opioids, use sparingly because of tolerance.

  10. If it is a good day, use less and use sparingly. If pain spikes, use higher dose, use sparingly.

  11.  When tolerance develops to ketamine, what then?

  12. Is it possible that a drug holiday would work? Should that be in months or years? we may never find out.

  13. Use ketamine and/or opioids sparingly. Prevent tolerance. You may not always need the same dose on a good day or when pain spikes.

  14. Make sure you are doing other things to relieve pain, not just ketamine or opioids.

  15.  Dextromethorphan helps, a sigma I receptor antagonist that reduces the excitotoxic glutamate

  16. Try as much as you can to exercise.

  17. Lift the mind to positive things. Learn to block thoughts of pain, dissociate from that. Choose life and doing and being.

  18. Develop momentum. Try never to judge; that includes being hard on yourself and others.

  19. Expand your spiritual life. Find your path if you don’t already have one. It may begin for all sorts of reasons, but figure it out. It’s real. Spiritual giants from all paths have had direct perception of the infinite in many ways and forms. Direct perception.

  20. S-ketamine clinical trials are now ongoing in the US. I was very disturbed to hear the side effects of S-ketamine infusion related last week. S-ketamine deeply disturbing. It is wrong to give everyone the same dose of ketamine. Not once have I ever heard anyone recount similar side effects from ketamine infusions. I got the impression from her they were not inclined to attribute it to S-ketamine, but it would be disturbing if they did not. Ketamine’s dose no matter how you give it is idiosyncratic, meaning some respond to 2 mg, some to 400 mg. It is wrong and should be unethical to subject someone to doses 200 times the dose they may need. It is dangerous and promotes tolerance.

  21.  If you’ve been stuck in bed, branch out and vary the things you do. Find music and poetry and literature. Maya Angelou suffered yet her words make you soar. Check out James Baldwin in the Oscar-nominated documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.” Baldwin’s immensely powerful analysis deconstructs movies, not as a mirror, but as a window into the imaginary; and how movies shape our thinking. As a movie critic, his writing is about poverty, class and “not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed if it is not faced.” …  “There are days — this is one of them — when I wonder, how precisely are you going to reconcile yourself to your situation here…” So many writers fail to teach us how to analyze and think with such clarity. Something we don’t always do. We need to train ourselves to become critical thinkers. Baldwin brilliant mind demonstrates critical thinking at its best.

    Critical thinking is not a partisan issue. Tens of millions will lose jobs as robots rapidly take over in the next 3 years. Industry will reap more than ever in history. We all need to rethink our lives at some point.

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    Dylan’s song is about “the possibility that the most important (and least articulated) political issue of our times is that we are all being fed a false picture of reality, and it’s coming at us from every direction.”[10]

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    “Propaganda, all is phoney,” Dylan says in “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).”

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    Advertising signs that con you
    Into thinking you’re the one
    That can do what’s never been done
    That can win what’s never been won
    Meantime life outside goes on
    All around you.

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    Public Warning:

    Ketamine is a controlled substance.

    Administered improperly, or without the guidance of a qualified doctor,

    Ketamine may cause injury or death.

    No attempt should be made to use Ketamine

    in the absence of counsel from a qualified doctor.

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    “Off label” means ketamine is FDA approved for another purpose, decades ago it was approved for anesthesia. In qualified hands, ketamine is one of the safest medications we have in our formulary.

     

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    The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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    It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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    It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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    This site is not for email and not for appointments.

    If you wish an appointment, please telephone the office to schedule.

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    For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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    Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Opioids Kill White Americans – Is it opioids or suicide or addiction or untreated pain?


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Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in

Mortality Rates of Young Whites

New York Times

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Yes, white Americans, headlined yesterday by Gina Kolata and Sarah Cohen, New York Times science writers.  This article points to the highest mortality in young whites. See post early November on the Princeton researchers who reported deaths in white Americans. True, infants and children have severe pain, but this new article is on young white adults.


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Those who are anti-opioid and those who lost a loved one from opioids and heroin (an opioid that helps pain), will send in comments to the paper so that everyone can see how bad opioids are. Most patients who take opioids are too disabled from pain to write.

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Pain is stigmatized, opioids stigmatized, people in pain are stigmatized, doctors who treat pain are stigmatized. Any wonder 97% of medical schools do not teach pain management?

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Is it opioids or suicide or addiction or untreated pain that is killing our youth?

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How many suicides have opioids prevented? Americans make up less than 5% of the global population but consume 80% of the world’s supply of opioid prescription pills. What if your cancer pain now becomes severe intractable chronic pain? Cancer has been changing. The survival rate has increased, and many of these cancer patients treated with opioid therapy, survived the cancer but have residual chronic pain from cancer or its treatment. Surely they are among the 18,000 white people who died.

 

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Please read the earlier post this week on the ethics of opioid treatment, on

CDC’s imminent radical cut in opioid doses for 100 million patients nationwide.

Use search function above photo – type in CDC or DEA.

Your pain. Your lives. Their profit.

A thorny problem.

Tell us what happened to you. Doctors, tell us what you are seeing.

Have you been denied disability due to pain? Denied non-opioid treatment?

Chronic severe pain affects forty million Americans.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Some insurers have denied or limited non-opioid treatments yet continued expensive opioids for decades. Has your insurance refused your treatment? Pain specialists have been barraged by denials for years.  Please comment below.

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As noted last week, I have spent 15 years developing alternatives to failed opioid treatment for chronic intractable pain and writing about that on these pages since April 2009. But opioids must be available as last resort.

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FACT:

  • Opioids killed almost 18,000 Americans in 2014 – prescription opioids, not street drugs.

  • 40 million American millions with severe pain, millions not thousands

  • 100 million with chronic pain.

  • CDC will imminently, radically cut everyone’s opioid dose

  • Health insurers will oblige, and incidentally show increased profit to shareholders

  • Suicide increases with untreated pain

  • Death rates for “whites ages 25 to 34 was five times its level in 1999”

  • This age group has more injuries from work and play that can lead to disability, job loss

  • Insurance is unaffordable or not purchased by many young adults

  • My own colleagues cannot afford high deductibles – prescriptions are now counted in deductibles, now unaffordable

  • Can you afford $20,000 per month for your opioid or is cheap heroin more affordable? Can you afford your usual drugs on Medicare once you are in the “donut hole.” Can you afford $28 per day, $840 per month for gout, when colchicine was 12 cents a day a couple years ago?

    • Do insurance denials increase liklihood of cheaper alternatives such as heroin or illegal marijuana resulting in death by drug dealer?

    • Do exhorbitant costs of opioids lead insurers to deny your medication?

  • Insurers have refused to pay for abuse-deterrent and tamper-resistant formulations of opioids

  •  Insurers have refused to pay for proven, widely accepted, nonopioid analgesics:

    • Lyrica

    • Horizant

    • Gralise

    • Cymbalta

    • Does it help the DEA and NIH and universities to teach those as nonopioid alternatives when they are not covered and not affordable the rest of your life?

    • Insurers deny every known compounded analgesic though low cost and effective, even for Tricare’s disabled veterans, even 5% lidocaine ointment for nerve pain, dextromethorphan, oxytocin, low dose naltrexone – Stanford published research on naltrexone years ago and now doing research on it again for CRPS, many many others

    • Insurers deny proven analgesics that are used by armed forces, university hospitals, select doctors, for life threatening pain: ketamine

    • Insurers deny off-label analgesics that may work better than opioids, e.g. memantine, an Alzheimers drug – can relieve intractable nerve pain (French publication on CRPS/RSD pain)

    • Insurers deny medications that reduce side effects of opioids, e.g. nonaddicting modafinil popular with students, to increase alertness when opioids cause drowsiness that may cause injury, death – gosh 10 years ago!

    • Is drowsiness the cause of some of those 18,000 opioid deaths?

  • Health insurers have refused coverage for treatments such as P.T., psychotherapy for coping skills, blocks.

  • Insurers deny medications that relieve the withering side effects of opioid withdrawal, making it impossible for many to taper off, e.g. Adderall, Wellbutrin (dopamine)

  • Cannabis, a nonopioid, classified by US Congress as Schedule I, illegal federally for human use, illegal to take on a plane or cross state/national borders, found on meteorites, made by sponges and some of the earliest living species on the planet, used for thousands of years for pain, while cocaine and methamphetamine are classified as Schedule II for prescription purposes.

  • Opioids, even vicodin, require monthly doctor visits, costs, monthly for sixty years

  • Why whites dying of opioids? People of color are denied prescription opioids. Stark data published for decades.

  • Heroin is an opioid, cheap and available; its “unAmerican” – used in England for pain, used thousands of years for pain

  • Untreated pain is one reason people turn to heroin, affordable is another

  • Violence and drinking and taking drugs can begin with chronic pain and job loss, not always the other way around, chicken egg

  • Opioids cost pennies to make, patient’s cost is $20,000 per month for Rx. Insurers paid what the market would bear… in the old days. Who is trapped in the middle of this fight for shareholder profit?

    • How many of us would take 2 or 4 extra pain pills when pain spikes to extreme for days?

    • If you are disabled, can you afford insurance or expensive prescription drugs?

  • “Poverty and stress, for example, are risk factors for misuse of prescription narcotics,” Dr. Hayward said.

  • When you are not getting enough sleep and rest, working too many hours overtime or 3 jobs, inflammation and pain spikes

  • Misuse of opioids in > 33% (perhaps 48%?) of cancer patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in high resource settings when insurance was better, published 1990’s.

  • Cancer pain – usually time limited. Intractable chronic pain – forever.
    .How many jobs will be lost and how many suicides when CDC imminently imposes strict cuts in opioids?

  •  DEA recently requires every pain patient taking opioids, including those with cancer, to be diagnosed “Opioid Dependent” — not only addicts – the same diagnosis for pain patients includes addicts. The term “addiction” has been equated to dependence by most psychiatrist over the past 30 years. It may be interesting to see what criteria are used to define “addiction” if any, in DSM V. Some important members acknowledge that the addition of dependence into addiction in DSM-III was a mistake….the DSM-V criteria will get rid of “abuse”, and will include craving. it will also apparently eliminate the legal/criminal criteria. DSM comments are extracted from here, with many good arguments on this epidemic, such as: “The US is leading the way in eradicating pain, but in doing so has created an unwanted byproduct: painkiller addiction.”
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    What would you want if you had intense chronic pain?

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    “For too many, and especially for too many women,” she said, “they are not in stable relationships, they don’t have jobs, they have children they can’t feed and clothe, and they have no support network.”

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    “It’s not medical care, it’s life,” she said. “There are people whose lives are so hard they break.”

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Opioids kill – or is it untreated pain?

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Pain kills, a maleficent force.

No one can help you. Only you have the tools to do it

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Alarms went off for me on radical opioid cuts in October and I posted when

DEA suddenly held conferences across the nation on sharply cutting opioid doses.

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How many of us especially seniors and male persons refuse to learn or use coping skills that

reduce pain without medication?

How many of us refuse to diet and lose weight to reduce pain and/or disability?

Politicians are sued if they tax sales of sugar loaded soft drinks.

One single can of soda per day exceeds acceptable sugar limits for entire day.

Snacks need to say much much time it takes to burn off fat –

quarter of large pizza 449 calories, walk off 1 hr 23 min;

large coke 140 calories, walk off 30 minutes.

Foods can be anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory.

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Obesity is pro-inflammatory.

So is lack of sleep.

People who sleep with animals in their bed and their bedroom, I’m talking to you.

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Yes, pain is in your mind.

Chronic back pain is no longer in the back, it’s in the brain, the pain matrix.

It’s behavior, not just pills. Pain is an emotional and psychosocial  and spiritual experience.

Work on it! Constantly.

Lord forbid we should teach stress reduction and meditation in grade school

and improve school lunches before kids start looking for heroin for pain.

Yes, kids have chronic pain, are sleep deprived, often obese.

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Isn’t this all un-American?

Injuries, pain, habits, pace activities, learn to avoid and treat pain – start young.

Taxpayers end up paying for ignorance and disability.

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I will soon be posting published research that documents health insurers have refused to pay for nonopioid treatment and how health care policy aimed at all people with chronic pain leads to suicide when drastic cuts are made to opioid doses – Washington State we are looking at you. Florida you’ve made headlines and 60 Minutes TV specials years ago.

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Do please comment below if your health insurer has refused medication, physical therapy, psycho-therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, stress reduction, for chronic pain.

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How many of you have been denied social security disability by doctors who don’t know how to diagnose RSD, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome? Let me know. I will pass on that data to researchers collecting information on untreated pain.

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I have written many times on these pages, and more often than ever these past years as insurers cut back more and more. This will rapidly get worse. We need your data.

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Please send in your stories. You are not alone.

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So many issues. Steven Passik, PhD, was interview by Lynn Webster, MD – emphasis in bold is mine. Dr. Passik pioneered in management of chronic pain and pain in addicts. He has read some of Dr. Webster’s book. “You’re calling, the need for love and connection and all those things in the book, I’ve been – what’s largely lacking is outright, at times animosity towards people with pain and I think there’s a lot of projections sometimes because the therapy – the stigmatized disease – treated in stigmatized people with stigmatized drugs and interventions and so, it’s like a hat trick of stigma.  I’ve been to my share of pain conferences lately that people are really talking about, “Okay, well there’s come a realization that opioid-only, drug-only therapy, is really not going to work to the best majority of this population.  It doesn’t [mean] that opioids should be ignored and we’ll get into that later, but that they’re going to work in isolation and should never been expected to.  And then they start advocating things that are a lot like supportive and cognitive behavioral therapy and to be practiced basically by the primary care physician or the pain doctor.  And the idea that, to me that’s in a way comical because as a psychologist myself, we’re dealing with the system wherein cognitive behavioral therapists can’t even get paid to do cognitive behavioral therapy.  And so, I think something’s got to give, and I think one of the main obstacle is that – and this really gets into the next question as well but I’ll come back to that more specifically – but when people have a set of whatever chronic condition that involves psychiatric motivational, lifestyle, spiritual as well as nociceptive elements, and we put a premium only on what you do to people, prescribed to people, put in people, take out of people, and then that’s only going to relegate the other kinds of treatment or the other kinds of ways in which a caring physician and treatment team would spend time with the patient to the very poorly reimbursed category.  You’ll always going to have a problem with people being treated with the kind of respect that should go along with treating that kind of an illness and it’s not unique even to chronic pain.  I’ve seen treatment scenarios with people who are taking care of people with pancreatic cancer, have an afternoon clinic that has 45 people in it.  I mean how you – something’s got to give in our healthcare systems and I do think that patients are going to have to stand up and say, “I don’t want to be on a conveyor belt.  I want to spend some time and make a connection with the people that are taking care of me and it’s not just about the piece paper in my hands, for a prescription or that I walk out the door with.”

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Clematis Blue.

 The New York Times article further says:

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…This is the smallest proportional and absolute gap in mortality between blacks and whites at these ages for more than a century,” Dr. Skinner said. If the past decade’s trends continue, even without any further progress in AIDS mortality, rates for blacks and whites will be equal in nine years, he said….

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…Not many young people die of any cause. In 2014, there were about 29,000 deaths out of a population of about 25 million whites in the 25-to-34 age group. That number had steadily increased since 2004, rising by about 5,500 — about 24 percent — while the population of the group as a whole rose only 5 percent. In 2004, there were 2,888 deaths from overdoses in that group; in 2014, the number totaled 7,558….

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…For young non-Hispanic whites, the death rate from accidental poisoning — which is mostly drug overdoses — rose to 30 per 100,000 from six over the years 1999 to 2014, and the suicide rate rose to 19.5 per 100,000 from 15, the Times analysis found….

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…For non-Hispanic whites ages 35 to 44, the accidental poisoning rate rose to 29.9 from 9.6 in that period. And for non-Hispanic whites ages 45 to 54 — the group studied by Dr. Case and Dr. Deaton — the poisoning rate rose to 29.9 per 100,000 from 6.7 and the suicide rate rose to 26 per 100,000 from 16, the Times analysis found….

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…Eileen Crimmins, a professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, said the causes of death in these younger people were largely social — “violence and drinking and taking drugs.” Her research shows that social problems are concentrated in the lower education group.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

It is not a substitute for medical advice,

diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

Relevant comments are welcome.

If any questions, please call the office to schedule an appointment.

This site is not email for personal questions.

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For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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