It’s difficult to avoid a clear and loud message that America is experiencing an opioid epidemic, but it’s even more difficult to hear the voice of chronic pain sufferers above the din of the government, the media and higher education.
Government Crafting the Message: Opioid Prescriptions Cause Addiction
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is responsible for “protecting America’s health whether diseases are chronic or acute” and “conducts critical science and provides health information that protects our nation against expensive and dangerous health threats.”
The CDC recently published its “Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain” which by title would suggest the government would provide “provide health information that protects our nation against expensive and dangerous health threats” like the epidemic of chronic pain. Instead, the guideline points to four data points that dictate its direction (opioid prescriptions are creating a health threat), and those are:
- 259 million prescriptions for opioids written in 2012 – “enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills”
- 300% increase in prescriptions since 1999 without an overall change in the amount of pain Americans report
- 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on opioids in 2013
- 16,000 people died due to overdose related to opioids.
Data missing from the CDC’s headlines include (source: American Academy of Pain Medicine):
- 100 million Americans suffer in chronic pain
- Pain costs American society at least $560 – $635 Billion annually (equivalent to $2,000 per American)
- Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer
So, there is a reason pain sufferers have issue with the government focusing on reducing opioid prescriptions, vs. focusing on helping pain sufferers. So, what do they have to say about it?
“These measures if implemented are much worse for PAIN PATIENTS than what the CDC is proposing!!!”
“The fact of the matter is that state & federal law should not decide how my pain is treated. A licensed medical professional who specializes in pain should have the say in my pain management.”
And, it’s not just what people are saying, there is a group that is doing something about the Guidelines.
One group, the Washington Legal foundation, has called on the government to withdraw its Guidelines because it claims it violated federal law in the way it was devised in secrecy. You can read their letter to CDC Director, Tom Friedman, here, and catch up on National Pain Reporting of the topic, here.
Media Trumpeting Message: Opioid Prescription Cause Addiction
The big-time media, as represented by 60 Minutes’ November 1st story, describes that the heroin epidemic is caused by prescription pain medication. National Pain Report reported widely on both the reaction to the story, and on the “other side of the story,” which one can find here.
What did chronic pain sufferers have to say about 60 Minutes’ coverage?
“The story is not about thousands of addicts who are using heroin, but millions of pain sufferers who use pain medication responsibly and are being denied access to it.”
“Your story about heroin use in Ohio is another example of main-stream media hyping what’s been described as the “prescription drug abuse epidemic” while totally missing the larger epidemic taking place in our country. Do you know that there are 100 million adults suffering from chronic pain in the United States?”
“I gave up trying to legitimately fix my health issues. Do you know what that resulted in? Me becoming a heroin addict. Not because I WAS prescribed opiates…..but because I WASN’T.”
“Every time a major media outlet reports on prescription opioid drugs and fails to mention that there are literally millions of law-abiding adults who can only be helped by these drugs. 60 Minutes, you need to get your act together and report the other side of the story.”
One National Pain Report reader actually wrote a column on how 60 Minutes should report the real story, which you can read here.
Higher Education Reinforces Message: Opioid Prescriptions Are the Problem
The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Clinton Foundation gathered a group of experts, who “after a town hall meeting featuring an inspiring call to action from President Bill Clinton, spent a day and a half” together to create a public consensus statement about “the serious public health problem” of the “misuse, abuse, addiction and overdose of opioids,” highlighting that it is “a crisis that kills an average of 44 people a day.”
National Pain Report readers had plenty to say in response to coverage of the story.
“When I read these “official” findings, reports, and the other garbage they throw our way to make us feel even more sub-human.”
Wow, I believe I’ll be writing 1 of my shortest posts ever. Because, all of you wonderful people have expressed every opinion I have! I.e. The tremendous feeling of anger I have, the loss of our basic civil and human rights, the irony behind all of the players behind this BS.”
“Once again it just goes over people’s heads that chronic pain people need these meds. You keep talking about ways to take away what little life we have left. How about spending a week with a chronic pain patient day and night. Be there for the crying the screaming and the praying to die because your meds were cut back.”