The Media’s Biased Reporting on Opioids — Pain News Network – June 14, 2016 – By Lynn Webster, MD
Stephen Martin, MD, EdM, an Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School…points out that media stories such as these greatly worry him:
- Denver Post: CU Boulder study: Narcotic painkillers cause chronic pain,
- FOX News: Opioids may prolong chronic pain, study suggests,
- Washington Post: Opioid paradox: Could morphine use hurt as much as it helps by prolonging chronic pain?
- Forbes: Prescription painkillers may worsen and lengthen chronic pain
In conjunction with the new CDC Guidelines, these reports may increase anxiety among some patients who are able to function with their medications.
But now, with good reason, they may fear that their access to painkillers will be tapered or discontinued “for their own good,” because the medication might “cause addiction,” or — and this is a twist the media has recently picked up on — because the opioids could “increase pain.”
As Dr. Martin points out, “The study [the media is referencing] involved rats that had sutures tied around their sciatic nerves. The sciatic nerve was tied and the animals were left in pain for 10 days. Then, the researchers administered morphine directly to spinal cords of these rodents for 5 days.”
“Urgent Opioid Public Announcement!” ~ Dr. Drew Pinsky
Then there’s Dr. Drew Pinsky‘s “urgent” public service announcement,” addressing the effects of rampant opioid addiction that has already claimed the lives of countless people across the world.” You can see it here.
when he makes a statement such as, “The United States represents 5% of the world’s population, and yet we consume 80% of the pain medication – medicine that was not designed to be used for longer than 2 weeks,” viewers tend to think that there must be something wrong with the fact that the U.S. prescribes such a high percentage of the medication.
The chief reason among them is people in most other areas of the world do not have access to opioids and die in tremendous pain:
U.S.-based physicians may overprescribe opioids to some people, but clearly, most people in the world do not receive the benefit of opioid therapy to mitigate their suffering when they’re dying.
I hope Dr. Drew is not suggesting we move toward that position in the U.S.
I refuse to believe he feels it is acceptable for hospice and cancer patients to die in excruciating pain. Dr Drew must believe that unbearable pain needs to be treated, even with opioids if no other treatment is effective.
Does he really? Or is Dr Drew himself blessed with an incredibly high pain tolerance that keeps him from understand the torture of chronic pain?
As a celebrity journalist as well as a medical doctor, Dr. Drew has more responsibility to show leadership than others.
This requires that he not promulgate spurious theories and fuel hysteria. I’d say his “urgent public service announcement” is particularly damaging because a trusted public figure should know better than to record a message of hyperbole that could do harm.
Biased Opioid Reporting Makes for Compelling Headlines
Sometimes, I wonder whether the media understands the harm that its actions can cause. I am sure Dr. Pinsky, as a physician, would never want to inadvertently contribute to misinformation. Unfortunately, his public service announcement may do just that.