Op-ed: To solve opioid crisis, we first must address people’s pain | The Salt Lake Tribune – Aug 27 2016 – By Lynn R. Webster
According to Journey Healing Centers, an astonishing 97 percent of Utahns admitted using diverted prescription drugs without a doctor’s permission.
“This behavior shows a lack of knowledge if not downright naiveté about how dangerous it is to fool around with potent medications that can addict and kill,” says their web site.
In fact, national data has shown a significant drop in opioids prescribed in 2012, 2013 and 2014 while the number of overdose deaths has continued to increase. Most of the increased deaths are due to heroin, or heroin laced with extremely lethal opioids like fentanyl.
Yet more restrictive measures are still being placed on opioids being prescribed for pain. Rx opioids are down, overdoses are up, but our government continues its policies aimed at the wrong culprit.
The government claim these restrictions (CDC guidelines) are evidence based, but they are certainly not following the evidence when it comes to the source of heroin overdoses.
They claim these restrictions (CDC guidelines) are evidence based, but they are certainly not following the evidence when it comes to the source of heroin overdoses.
The problem is not a medicine that eases debilitating pain for people who suffer from painful conditions.
It’s about addiction, which drives people to continue using a drug even after horrific consequences,
When taken only for pain,
opioids do not induce euphoria
and do not lead to addiction*
*Only about 3% of legitimate pain patients become addicted
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.
People with pain will suffer without their prescription medication, 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 if they are unable to find adequate treatment for their pain.
We cannot solve the opioid crisis
without solving the pain crisis.
According to PROP, there is no pain crisis, because we are not actually in pain, but addicted like all the other millions of pain people.
They claim that nyone who takes opioids for over a month for any reason whatsoever is addicted. They even believe pain is a symptom of our addiction.
- Educating the public,
- providing access to effective and affordable mental health treatment,
- ensuring access to free substance abuse treatment if necessary and
- decriminalizing the disease of addiction
will go a long way toward reducing the number of people with addiction to prescription drugs or who suffer an overdose.
There are solutions, but they will require thoughtful and non-judgmental involvement by all the stakeholders.
It is imperative that we allow compassion to lead us forward while science lights the way. Only then will we be able to solve both the pain and opioid crisis in Utah.
Lynn R. Webster, M.D., is a past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine and author of “The Painful Truth: What Chronic Pain Is Really Like and Why It Matters to Each of Us.” He lives in Salt Lake City.