Politicians and some government officials tell us that the new CDC opioid guidelines will reduce deaths due to overdoses. But, based on the evidence we’ve seen so far, that is unlikely.
The latest CDC report shows a continual increase in opioid-related overdose deaths despite about a 25% decrease in the number of opioids prescribed.
This data demonstrates that an absolute reduction in opioid prescribing hasn’t resulted in the intended outcome–so far, at least
Overdoses: A More Complex Problem
The problem is more complex than the lawmakers, CDC, and regulators would have us believe
What happens is that, when we reduce the amount of opioids that are prescribed, we force many of those with opioid addictions to switch to illegal opioids such as heroin and synthetic fentanyl, which are far more dangerous than prescription opioids
Reducing the supply side of the addiction problem does not address the demand for opioids, nor does it help address the needs of people with the disease of addiction.
Denying prescriptions to people who have been benefiting from opioids is a misguided attempt to save the lives of people with opioid addictions at the expense of people with pain.
People with pain will suffer, and that suffering won’t save the lives of people with addictions who turn to illegal substances. Additionally, in all likelihood, we will see an increase in suicides from people who just cannot live with their level of pain.
Chronic Pain Contributes to Deaths by Suicide
There are about 104 suicides per day (compared to 44 opioid-related overdoses per day).
…not to mention medical errors causing 1200 deaths per day.
In my opinion, intractable pain is a contributing factor in many of these suicides.
I suspect that, as we see more and more people denied opioids for their pain, we will see an increase in the number of suicides. I base this on my experience of seeing many patients commit suicide in my practice despite having access to all of the available treatments.
Severe pain is not always compatible with choosing to live.
Trading opioid-related deaths for either deaths related to illegal drugs, or to suicides because of pain, is not an acceptable solution.