By Ed Coghlan
If there has been a constant theme from chronic pain patients about the media coverage on the opioid issue, it has been about the media’s lack of balance.
That’s why this recent story in the Boston Globe about the “other side in America’s war on opioids” caught our attention.
“Opioids absolutely harm some patients. But they absolutely help some patients,” Dr. Daniel P. Alford, told the Globe. He is a Boston University School of Medicine addiction specialist who directs the school’s Safe and Competent Opioid Prescribing Education program.
Alford decried what he called “opioid phobia” and “blanket regulatory changes that treat everybody the same.”
The article also caught the attention of one of the nation’s leading interventional pain physicians, Jay Joshi M.D. with whom we’ve been talking quite a bit lately.
“It would be very helpful and appropriate if the media reporting on the issue actually looked at both sides of this issue like the Globe did,” said Dr. Joshi, who is a double board certified anesthesiologist and pain specialist.
He is the CEO and Medical Director at the National Pain Centers in Illinois and the Chairman of the Clinical Board of Directors at the National Pain Foundation. He has also spent time at the World Health Organization’s Department of Substance Abuse in Geneva, Switzerland. He thinks the media needs to work harder to understand the complexity of the opiate debate.
“It would require the media to talk to actual pain experts that understand the science, the clinical applications, and the behind-the-scene agendas,” he said. “Placing equal blame on every opiate molecule and every opiate manufacturer is inaccurate and misguided. Some opiate molecules have less likability, less dopaminergic response, lower buzz, and lower highs. Some opiate manufacturers have actually been responsible in their marketing and agendas. The media need to understand this if they are going to tell the story accurately.”
Dr. Joshi has taken substance abuse very seriously. He noted that people who work in addictionology are not pain experts. For example, he pointed out an addictionologist cannot tell you how to have a proper diet if you are addicted to food, or how to have proper mental health and lower anxiety if you are addicted to nicotine, or how to build a complex model airplane if you are addicted to sniffing glue.
Dr. Joshi will be writing for the National Pain Report in the coming weeks.