The Global Pain Crisis | Psychology Today – May 2017
Images and words of America’s opioid overdose epidemic have captured headlines and TV news feeds for the last several years.
But there’s a different image seared into my mind, a mental picture of a different little kid and two adults. This one never made it into the news, but it’s just as real.
It took place in India, on June 1, 2014. The little boy in this scene had been suffering unbearable pain for most of his eight years, pain triggered by a severe genetic disorder. The hospital he was in, like most hospitals in India, had no morphine.
Eventually, the parents did the only thing they could think of to stop his pain.
They killed him.
Then they committed suicide, leaving behind a note saying they could not stand to watch him suffer any longer.
Morphine costs just three cents a dose.
It is safe, when used properly, and effective.
Yet tens of millions of people around the world suffer in pain because of the lack of access to controlled medicines, according to the World Health Organization.
That’s not just people at the end of life, but people who’ve had accidents or been the victims of violence, people with chronic illnesses, people recovering from surgery, women in labor.
The problem, which I explore in my book, is excessive regulations governing morphine and other “essential medicines.”
Back in 1961, the world community adopted an international agreement called the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which then set up the International Narcotics Control Board.
The board has two jobs.
- One is to control drug abuse and diversion.
- The other is to ensure access to opioid drugs for people in pain.
Essentially, it only does the former. Yet failure to treat pain amounts to “torture by omission” in the eyes of some medical ethicists.
There is also no question that a little boy in India should have had access to morphine. His death, and the deaths of his parents, didn’t make the news.
I wish it had.
This is exactly how horrid constant pain can be. This article echoes something I heard a long time ago that makes perfect sense:
“If my own mother knew how much pain I was in, she’d kill me herself.”
These brave parents did exactly that.
This is what’s going to happen in America too when opioids are legislated and restricted to the point of “torture by omission” for chronic pain patients.