Opioids as Scapegoats

Research Studies use Opioids as Scapegoats

I’ve noticed the same fundamental error in many studies that look for, and then find, negative consequences from opioid therapy: whatever the outcome, researchers blame the opioid medications instead of the underlying pain.

That’s like saying people who use insulin have unstable blood sugar. Technically that’s correct, but it doesn’t address the reason people are using insulin in the first place, which is that they have diabetes. This is the real source of their unstable blood sugar, not the medication they take to control it.

Yet this is exactly how most studies evaluate opioid medication. They start by selecting a group of people taking opioids and compare them to people who don’t. Even if both groups have pain, they never consider that there could be a legitimate reason for this disparity.  

Those taking opioids generally have much more serious or consistent pain than those that don’t need them. So the comparison is essentially between people with serious pain and people with slight pain.

This problem is evident in many of the so-called “studies of opioids” that are actually “studies of pain”. How can we compare opioid-therapy to non-opioid-therapy without accounting for the initial level of pain?

The studies claim they are testing the effects of opioids when they are really testing the effects of chronic pain. Then they blame any and all negative outcomes, like depression or a sedentary lifestyle, on the opioids, instead of proceeding to the root cause, which is pain.

During these times of drug prohibition, many “drug” researchers are deliberately producing conclusions to support the currently popular (and funded) anti-opioid point of view.

Another example:

Researchers compared the brains of people who ingested Marijuana with other people who didn’t, found a difference, and jumped to the conclusion the difference was a sign of brain dysfunction. It turns out that some differences are no more than that, and there were no negative effects seen from them.

No other medications are judged like this, without the underlying conditions being taken into account. It seems an almost deliberate deception to shift the cause of troubling symptoms from the pain to the medication we take for the pain.

I’m not sure what this particular research design error is called, but it can be caused by ignorance of the conditions underlying the variable being tested. For example: Decades ago, a study came out proving that oat bran reduced cholesterol.

What was not taken into account is that people eating oat bran decades ago were unusually health conscious and active. That’s what was lowering their cholesterol.

Most people taking opioids are in pain, which is the underlying condition of legitimate opioid use. All the recent rhetoric scapegoating opioids seems deliberately misleading.


1 thought on “Opioids as Scapegoats

  1. Pingback: The Blame Game | All Things Chronic

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