There is a contrary side to the story. There is the vast majority of patients, probably more than 80 percent, who have taken opioids properly, as responsibly prescribed by their physicians, and who have found that the pharmaceuticals rescued them from excruciating, often-morbid pain.
I, for one, am exceptionally beholden to the manufacturers of opioids. For nearly 20 years, I considered myself the luckiest man on earth for marrying Ilene. I can state unequivocally that without these much-maligned drugs, Ilene’s life would have been cut short by more than a decade.
Yes, there can be serious negative effects from opioid use. It is likely that hundreds of thousands have experienced these effects
That should not shock us. As everyone who has seen pharmaceuticals advertised on television realizes, every drug comes with numerous potentially serious side effects, and death is quite often one of them
As daunting as this epidemic has become, especially for those having to confront its impact firsthand, it appears that, when properly prescribed, only a small fraction of patients experience truly debilitating side effects.
That compares to the millions more who experience a substantial reduction in severe pain while the quality of their lives greatly improves.
The problem is that
making lives better is no longer the primary objective.
Too often, though, physicians are forced to abstain from making proper medical decisions because of the potential impacts on their own careers.
Also wrong is that nearly all of those impacted by the opioid epidemic already have passed judgment and have convicted one opioid, OxyContin, and its maker, Purdue Pharma.
Many of us know just how unbearable life can become for those in pain.
OxyContin’s large-scale success was not because of some extraordinarily aggressive marketing effort, but because there was enormous pent-up demand by doctors and millions of their patients.
This is a good point I haven’t seen mentioned before: the pressing need for “round-the-clock” pain relief for many patients with terribly painful syndromes, like EDS, fibromyalgia, CRPS, and many more.
Initially, it seemed, little attention was paid to potential side effects.
As best as I can tell, the situation is deteriorating. Not long ago, a close friend was in severe pain following spinal surgery. After being released from the hospital, her husband was in near panic because she was in so much pain and none of the pharmacies he contacted were willing to fill the opioid painkiller prescribed by her surgeon.
I have developed several contrarian opinions about opioids and the opioid epidemic.
- First, opioids are not evil; they are an important medical resource. When a patient is suffering from severe or chronic pain, we should not pass judgment on them, and they should not be denied the medications they need. For the vast majority of patients with extreme levels of pain, the use of opioids can result in a significant reduction of pain, thus improving quality of life.
- Two, opioids can be misprescribed, misused, or abused; so they should be made available only to patients who have been determined by their doctors to be in genuine need
- Three, instead of being confrontational, all parties to this matter should be working cooperatively with the drug manufacturers to develop and fund programs that address the needs of those who abuse the drugs, especially those who become addicted
there is no guarantee that pending lawsuits will be successful, especially considering the federal government was party to approving and maintaining oversight of every aspect of the development and distribution of the opioids.
This is another novel (to me) point. How can pharmaceutical manufacturers be sued for producing FDA-approved and DEA-controlled drugs that were in high demand by medical professionals?
Manufacturers and the government, cooperatively, must invest whatever funds are necessary to develop painkilling medications that overcome the major disadvantages of the current opioids.
But until those drugs become readily available, the painkilling capabilities of opioids are too important a resource to be treated as something sinister and something that could potentially face being eliminated from standard medical practices.
Author: Steven Goldfine lives in Duluth.