Solutions, Not Blame

April 9, 2012 2:34 pm Dr. Webster Leave a Comment (Edit)

When tragedy strikes from prescription-drug related harm and a loved one is lost, the devastation remains forever. The desire to blame physicians who treat chronic pain is understandable but cannot solve the problem. Unfortunately, there isn’t one solution, such as restricting the use of opioids to people with severe rather than moderate-to-severe pain, as suggested in a recent article.  Such a move has the potential to create more tragedy.

For those who have suffered the loss of a loved one from prescription drugs, it may be difficult to accept that people also die from inadequately treated pain.  The agony is no less when someone is lost to suicide because he or she could no longer take the pain and isolation of a chronic condition without a solution.

We who treat patients with pain certainly need to do a better job of identifying who should receive these medications and who should not. However, people who use opioids for nonmedical purposes will still find them, even if they are limited to people with the most severe pain problems. An unintended result would be that patients who benefit from opioids and never abuse them are left to suffer needlessly without their medication.

See how blaming doesn’t solve problems? Science is slow, and funding is never adequate for the many studies that are needed. But progress is happening, even though the steps are small. New research shows how people differ genetically in opioid response, raising hope that opioid responders can be identified early. Newer, safer non-opioid therapies are on the horizon. Recently published research that points the way to safer methods of switching between opioids may save thousands of lives. Lives that might otherwise have been lost to the scourge of chronic pain.
Lynn Webster, MD

Filed Under: Pain Medication Abuse

Leave a Comment