Can Chiropractors Write Prescriptions for Medication?

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People who are dealing with serious pain, whether it’s the result of a chronic condition or an acute injury, sometimes choose to visit a chiropractor instead of a doctor for relief. While chiropractors can do a great deal to relieve pain, there’s one thing they can’t do: prescribe medication.

A Natural Healing Profession

Chiropractors practicing in the United States are not permitted to prescribe drugs or perform surgery. That might sound like a restriction; however, it lines up with the way chiropractors think of themselves and their profession.

Chiropractic medicine is sometimes referred to as natural medicine or alternative medicine. As practitioners who believe that the human body can heal itself in most situations, chiropractors view the tendency to prescribe drugs for pain with some skepticism and alarm.

The majority of the prescriptions written for pain are for opioid medications. The issue of over-prescribing opioids has led to a national health crisis and a sharp increase in the number of overdoses.

The National Chiropractic Association describes chiropractic medicine as a “drug-free, non-surgical science.” Chiropractic practitioners can often help their patients through a series of non-surgical, physical adjustments that:

  • Relieve pain
  • Reduce the physical and emotional stress of pain
  • Improve function, stamina, and flexibility

While chiropractors do not typically prescribe medication, they are not anti-medication. Some people with severe pain may benefit from the use of medication. Many chiropractors work closely with their patients’ primary care physicians to develop a pain management plan that includes both chiropractic treatments and prescription drugs as needed.

In addition to working with primary care physicians, chiropractors may also recommend alternative treatments like naturopathy, homeopathy, physical therapy, and massage in their efforts to help their patients.

New Mexico’s Law

While most chiropractors in the United States are not permitted to prescribe drugs, the state of New Mexico has enacted legislation that makes it possible for some highly-trained chiropractors to prescribe medication.

The history of the law is convoluted. While the law was passed, it was later tabled by the New Mexico Senate’s Public Affairs Committee. However, the tabling did not impact the ability of designated chiropractors in the state to prescribe medication.

The law says that certain chiropractors, referred to as advanced chiropractors, can prescribe medication within a strict formula provided that they meet the state’s educational requirements. Traditionally, chiropractors are not trained or educated in how to prescribe medication.

The law has been met with some opposition in New Mexico and around the country. Traditional chiropractors object because they feel that prescribing medication is contrary to the stated objectives of the chiropractic profession.

Wellness vs. Crisis

Perhaps the biggest difference between mainstream medicine and chiropractic care is that mainstream medicine is best equipped to deal with crisis care while chiropractors consider themselves wellness practitioners. People can and often do visit their chiropractors for regular adjustments even when they’re not in pain.

Ultimately, the goal of chiropractors is to optimize the performance of the human body without the use of prescription drugs or surgery. Most chiropractors believe strongly that this philosophy gives their patients the best chance of living productive and pain-free lives.

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