By Paul Gileno.
As Pain Awareness Month enters its second full week, the National Pain Report is continuing to share observations of physician and patient alike on the state of pain care in the United States. Today, the founder and president of the largest patient-centered non-profit, Paul Gileno of the US Pain Foundation offers his perspective.
“Pain patients have always faced stigma and barriers to care. Unfortunately, it’s getting worse instead of better. While the opioid overdose epidemic is a serious crisis that deserves our attention and action, it has led to an even greater witch-hunt against legitimate pain patients to find and obtain effective pain relief. We hear every day from patients who have been dropped by their doctor for unfair reasons or who would like to go off opioids, but can’t afford other options. In more drastic cases, we receive suicidal emails crying for help.
We see a few solutions:
- We need access to affordable non-pharmaceutical treatment options. We also need more research to identify effective therapies–the amount of funding for pain research right now is abysmal.
- There must be an increase of public awareness about safe disposal, since diversion is a huge source of the problem.
- We also stress the need for clinicians to have more training on pain management options and on real risk factors for abuse; it is not okay for providers to be making decisions based on unfounded assumptions.
- People with pain also deserve more emotional and mental health support, to help prevent situations that might lead them to feel helpless and consider abusing their meds.
- What is sad is that there are many ways to deal with the opioid issue without unintentionally harming pain patients. Yet, the pain community is not asked to participate in the discussion about how to solve the crisis, despite that it affects us deeply.
Although we advocate year-round, Pain Awareness Month is a chance to break down the myths about and mischaracterization of chronic pain. Our theme this month is balanced pain management, or pain management that includes a broad range of therapies, not just medication. We’re hoping to encourage patients to start the conversation about access to more pain relief options with their doctors, representatives, and anyone else who will listen. Until we give people with pain better alternatives, pain medications will remain necessary.”