This Is the Hazelton Betty Ford Institute’s Statement on Opioids

This is the Hazelton Betty Ford Institute Statement on Opioids, Lynn Webster, MD, The Painful Truth

In a new press release posted by the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy, “The Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy commends new steps taken by the American Medical Association (AMA) to help combat the national opioid crisis, and encourages continued action in the year ahead.”

According to the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute, those new steps include removing pain as a vital sign. In other words, the AMA and Hazelden believe it is better not to try to quantitate pain assessment because doctors may feel they have to prescribe an opioid if the patient reports they are in significant pain. They contend that line of thinking has contributed to the opioid crisis.

Additionally, the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute is encouraging the AMA “to adopt more opioid prescription guidelines similar to those put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).” These new guidelines, as you’ve probably experienced if you’re a chronic pain patient, are making it more difficult for people to get legal prescriptions for opioids that they’ve relied on to treat their pain, sometimes for decades.

Without Opioids, Chronic Pain Patients Pay the Price

I’ve heard from patients all around the country about the fact that these CDC guidelines have turned their world upside down. Opioids do not usually eliminate pain, but they were making it possible for some patients to get through the day by taking the edge off that pain. Now doctors fear regulatory or legal sanctions if they continue to prescribe opioids to non-cancer patients. This is having a chilling effect on prescribing and, of course, it is the patient who is paying the price.

Many of the people writing to me feel their doctors have let them down. And these people believe that the doctors’ deleterious actions have been sanctioned by the CDC, the AMA, and now — as we’re seeing — by the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute.

We have to recognize that opioids are an imperfect pain medication. As long as there are opioids in a community, there will be people who will misuse them and become addicted to them.

Why Opioids Are Necessary Right Now

I strongly believe in using (and in seeking) more alternatives. However, and in the meantime, opioids are necessary for some people who have no better (or affordable) treatment choices. In fact, I’ve met patients who tell me that, if they couldn’t find relief through prescription opioids, they couldn’t go on, and I believe them.

I understand the Hazelton Betty Ford Institute’s position regarding the connection between opioids and addiction. Yet most people who are treated with opioids do not abuse them, nor do they become addicted.

Treatment centers like Hazelton Betty Ford Institute are reacting to what they see on a daily basis. Of course they don’t see the patients who find relief from opioids and don’t abuse the drugs. But I have been seeing, and hearing from, such patients for decades.

Safe and Effective Treatments

It is physicians’ responsibility to listen to, and find the safest and most effective treatment for, their patients. Sometimes, this will be an opioid, and sometimes it should not be an opioid.

Opioids can do harm. But the Hazelton Betty Ford Institute has to realize that the lack of opioids can also do harm. Each patient must be evaluated as an individual and then receive personalized therapy.

The Hazelton Betty Ford Institute has good intentions, and I’m glad that they are available to help people who have developed an opioid problem or other addictions. However, it is also important that the Institute, and others, recognize that opioids can be, and often are, the only option for many people in severe pain.

Purchase my book The Painful Truth: What Chronic Pain Is Really Like and Why It Matters to Each of Us (available on Amazon) or read a free excerpt here.

the painful truth, lynn webster, md, chronic pain

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Copyright 2016, Lynn Webster, MD





  1. Pam on July 10, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Thank you. Thank you so very much!

  2. Wayne S. Swanson II on July 11, 2016 at 4:24 am

    I have taken this opportunity to share my heartbreaking story in hopes these witch hunting Opiate ill informed skeptics will read and understand that I would have no life without Medically prescribed Opiates by a physicians care and strictly monitored monthly urine and blood test. Please remember that An Opinion Before A Thorough Investigation Is The Epitome Of Ignorance! And that a little more compassion from the Medical Field and its representatives could have saved my beautiful Stepdaughters life. Let me say this! A person who has a addictive personality will abuse anything that helps them feel better. I have taken Oxycontin for 12 years , I have had 20 major surgery’s in 9 years. I have so much physical pain I can not even get out of bed with ouit pain meds and when I run out I run out and just lay in bed praying the Lord relieve me of this horrible condition and I pray God you pain med skeptics never go through what I go through everyday of my life when the only thing you have to do is threaten what help I get, Shame on you! There will always be drug abuse and as the so called war on drugs has failed all this will! All you do is stoke and aid the drug pushers business to knew heights in the Black Market of Heroin while depriving folks as me to this horrible movement! My Stepdaughter committed suicide 4 years ago because of being treated like a drug addict by her family and doctors when all along she suffered from Lupus and Fibro which I believe was brought on by a deadly car crash at 18 , she told me between that which I was being put through and what they were putting her through she was not going to live her life in such a hell brought on by people like you that are on a witch hunt to out law Opiates and pain meds that give us some sort of a life . As a retired Police officer and worked indirectly close to the DEA, you people do not have a clue how thrilled you are making the illegal opiate trade and think of my Late Stepdaughter as you continue on with this 2016 Version of the ( 1940s Propaganda Film named REEFER MADNESS )movement to outlaw opiates! Just like the slaughter of children at Sandy Hook if there would have just been gun laws , my God they were Gun Laws , the guns that murdered all those 20 children were all registered and owned by a school teacher! You fight Drug Addiction in Elementary education by teaching all children the dangers of Booze and Tobacco which if these witch hunters want for us to know the real truth but they do not. I miss my Stepdaughter a so much and some of us will continue on the fight to protect our right to feel better and function without fear of these witch hunters trying to convince us to commit suicide . And they are trying to do exactly THAT!
    The under line real truth is THESE witch hunters would rather us Chronic Pain sufferers commit suicide are and DRINK all the BOOZE we can drink! The Federals legalized it ( ALCOHOL) knowing its a more deadly drug than Strychnine. And just because the DEA has miserably failed with their witch hunt type movement on drugs why do they deprive us sick people of our Constitutional Rights to be Happy in that pursuit of with Professional Physicians to take meds that give us relief of this horrible malady of Chronic Pain ! May God have mercy on their miserable souls they that seek to destroy us Chronic Pain Sufferers only and little hope of temporary relief of this horrible sickness.

  3. Richard A. Lawhern, Ph.D. on July 11, 2016 at 8:48 am

    Dr. Webster, your book and others in its field are very much needed as a counter-weight to the malicious mythology being preached by ignorant medical authorities who literally don’t know what they’re talking about. As a step toward correcting this mythology and suing the fools who preach it, can you share with this audience, any references to papers which assess the long term effectiveness of properly prescribed and monitored opioid medications in chronic pain?

    I keep hearing that no such studies have ever been attempted. But that doesn’t keep proponents of the so-called “war on drugs” (currently a war against chronic pain patients) from proclaiming loudly that opioids don’t work when prescribed over periods of years in chronic pain. As a chronic pain patient advocate, I know better than to accept such nonsense. I’ve talked to literally hundreds of people over the past 20 years who have successfully employed prescription opioids at a stable dose for periods of years, without building drug tolerance and without descending into addictive behaviors.

    Share your thoughts, please.

  4. C.S. on July 15, 2016 at 11:42 am

    There is a lot of talk about how much the death rate has risen due to opioid over doses. It seems to me the increase in deaths is primarily the result of abuse by people whom are not in chronic pain from a documented medical condition but simply use opioid medication to get high. Sadly the consequences of their misuse has led to addiction and deaths and alot of hoops to jump through for the legitimate person whom uses the medication responsibly and for its intended use of providing relief from the daily pain that is the debilitating, depressing, torturous, life of misery with out it. It is understandable how additional policy and procedures had to be implemented to keep medication out of the possession of the people who are abusing and misusing it. Thus the intent was saving lives while still providing the right to receive medical care for a documented illness or injury that a licensed physician is treating, caring for, and closely following. I as well as many other chronic pain patients i know have found this to be an inconvenience along with noticing fear about prescribing and dispensing amongst physician’s and pharmacists. We have had to learn to deal with the changes in order to receive the much needed medications we need to funtion and have some kind of quality to life. Well apparently all of these strict changes we have adapted to are not enough. As addicts always do, they have continued to find away to obtain medications to get their high or they have moved on to heroine bought from drug dealers which is offten laced with stuff such as fentanyl that is manufactured in another country by fellow drug dealers. Therefore the deaths from over dosing have continued and the media has done a fine job of making everyone aware of this by airing over dose death stories due to opioid medication misuse. i would like to know if the media or the establishments that have the authority to make the guidelines and changes in how opioids are prescribed can provide the percentage of over dose deaths that have accurred from opioid medication used by the people in which it was prescribed to for a chronic pain. I am sure that percentage is low and that the majority of the deaths accure from the people that obtain it illegally and used it for the purpose of getting high. So the over doses are going to continue unless they figure out how to stop the illegal sales. Instead they think by limiting the amount of prescribed medications that are used by responsible chronic pain patients from licensed physician will decrease the problem of over dose deaths. The chronic pain patients are not the problem but it is our lives that will suffer and regress. I know from hearing from other chronic pain patients this will not decrease the deaths from over doses but will increase the deaths from suicides because by limiting our medical care by decreasing or taking away medications we use on a daily basis to function and have some level of quality of life, would make life unbearable to live for a person that has to live in relentless pain every day. They would be taking away the only thing that allows a pain suffer to get out of bed, to be able to get up and make a living if their condition has not left them disabled. Then how would we support ourselves or family. But i guess since we wont be able to get out of bed to do anything with family or friends, or to grocery shop, or do any leisure activities or even get ourselves bathed and groomed for the day, we only need to worry about having a bed to lay in to suffer our lives away. How do they not understand that is no quality of live and that many will choose not to live that way or further more let their loved ones see them live that way or become a burden to them. How could they not see or take in to consideration by them taking away or limiting medication that will not help with the over dose deaths by the addicts that illegally purchase these drugs from illegal drug dealers but will increase the deaths from suicide by the patients that legally obtains their medications from legal licensed physician and pharmacies that monitor the patient. For some of you reading this you are probably thinking they will not take away prescribed medications from actual patients that need them but let me assure you that they already have started doing such a thing. I live in Colorado where Colorados state funded medical insurance (Medicaid) has limited the amount of opioid pain medication that they will pay for. So if a persons prescribed pain medication is greater than Medicaids set morphine equivalency amount, they will not pay for any amount of medication that exceeds that equivalency with the only exceptions of a cancer patient or patient with Sickle Cell Disease. So no matter what documented medical condition you have, or no matter how long you have taken your dosage of medication, or that you had genetic test done that prove your need for an increased amount of medication to provide the medications minimal effectiveness due to the way you as an individual metabolises the medication, or your tolerance, or height and weight, or any other factor that is taken in to consideration for the dose of your medication. The restriction is straight across the board, the same for everyone regardless of an individuals needs. For me this is a reduction in the dose of medication i have taken for years for Multiple Sclerosis and Chronic Systemic Sarcoidosis which both cause multiple secondary conditions that require pain medication. The reduction of medication in my case is 2/3 of what I’ve taken on a daily basis to provide pain relief and quality of life. This allows me only 1/3 of the amount of medication I need. Besides the withdrawal from such a drastic reduction i will be left to suffer in bed with no quality of life. I as many chronic pain patients have demonstrated our responsible use of prescribed pain medication by our record and monitoring of past use. I have had the same physicians for years, i have no negative history in how I’ve used pain medication, i have no history of misuse or over doses, I have never had any addicive qualities, i do not smoke, drink , or do illegal drugs, i have passed mo. Urine test that reflect i take my prescribed medications, i do not take any medications that are not prescribed to me, or use any illegal drugs or mix my medication with alcohol. I have over 500 pages of medical documentation of my conditions and need for pain medication from the past 3 years alone. Up until 2011 when i finally could no longer perform any meaningful work, i have worked, supported, and raised 2 children into responsible adults. Ive never been in trouble with the law or have a criminal record. But because of individuals who have a need to get high, abuse and misuse medications, are over dosing and dieing, I as a responsible person with a medical need to use medications just to get out of bed and live A life with less pain and suffering has to live with the consequences i myself did not create. WHEN WILL SOMEONE HEAR US, THE CHRONIC PAIN SUFFER. When will the media share our story . When will the people who are responsible for changing the guidelines and have the ability and right to change how much pain medication a person is allowed GOING TO HEAR US. WILL IT BE WHEN THE SUICIDE DEATH RATE OF THE CHRONIC PAIN PATIENTS SCREAMING FOR SOMEONE TO HEAR AND HELP US GOES THROUGH THE ROOF. WILL THE LIVES OF THE SUFFERING HAVE TO BE LOST BEFORE SOMEONE REALIZES IT IS INHUMANE TO MAKE SOMEOME LIVE WITHOUT ADEQUATE PAIN CONTROL. PLEASE WILL SOMEONE HEAR US BEFORE IT IS TO LATE, BEFORE EVEN ONE OF US FEELS THE ONLY OPTION TO RELIEVE OUR PAIN AND SUFFERING IS DEATH.

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