Interview with Dr. Steven Passik – Question #6

Question #6: Why has the CDC not recognized pain as an epidemic but says opioids should not be used for chronic non-cancer pain?

Dr. Lynn Webster [Dr. Webster]: Hello, this is Dr. Lynn Webster. Thank you for listening to the Pain Topics series of interviews on Today I am joined by Dr. Steve Passik for the final question in this series. Dr. Passik is a clinical psychologist and vice president of clinical research and advocacy at Millennium Health. Thank you for joining me again, Dr. Passik. Today, I’d like to ask why the CDC has not recognized pain as an epidemic but says opioids should not be used for chronic non-cancer pain?


Dr. Steve Passik [Dr. Passik]: Well, I can’t really say.  This one is the one I feel a little ill-equipped to answer only because I don’t really know the internal machinations of the CDC and all that but I will say this, and you highlighted this really well in the beginning of your book also.  There is just this ongoing trivialization of pain as a disease that is inherent to the way we think about pain.  We think of it as you know as the symptom of a problem as opposed to the problem in and of itself, and I think there’s a tendency that just completely trivializes it and look at it as a problem of drug-seeking, secondary gain-seeking, disability-seeking and not as a real illness with the kind of impact that it has.  And as you know, the research is ridiculously underfunded and I mean it all just kind of goes back to the same point of stigmatization and trivialization of pain as a disease and if you don’t really see it as a disease, then it’s hard to start talking in disease terms like about epidemics and so on.

Dr. Webster: That’s a good note to end on. Pain certainly starts out as a symptom but can very easily become a disease, and a devastating one at that.

Thank you for participating in this Pain Topics series, Dr. Passik, and thank you to the listeners for tuning in to Pain Topics on Please come back tomorrow for the sixth and final question with Dr. Passik. Please stay tuned to my blog for more information about my upcoming book and documentary, titled The Painful Truth, to be released this fall. Also, if you aren’t already, please follow me on Twitter @LynnRWebsterMD. Thank you and have a great day.

Steven D. Passik, Ph.D.
Vice President of Clinical Research and Advocacy, Millennium Health

Steven D. Passik, PhD, is vice president of clinical research and advocacy at Millennium Health. Before coming to Millennium, Dr. Passik was professor of psychiatry and anesthesiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. He was section co-editor for the opioid pain and addiction section of Pain Medicine, served on the editorial board of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management and has been a reviewer for many peer reviewed journals, including The Clinical Journal of Pain. Dr. Passik was editor in chief of the National Cancer Institute’s PDQ Supportive Care Editorial Board. He was named a fellow of Division 28 of the American Psychological Association (Psychopharmacology & Substance Abuse) and awarded a Mayday Fund Fellowship in Pain and Society. An author of more than 200 journal articles, 60 book chapters, and 59 abstracts, he speaks nationally and internationally on pain, addiction and the pain/addiction interface. Dr. Passik received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the New School for Social Research, New York, and was a chief fellow, Psychiatry Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

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