(There have been a great number of very articulate letters written by National Pain Report readers about the CNN Town Hall on Opioids that was aired last Wednesday. Kurt Matthies’s is worthy of republishing)
You have joined other leading American media outlets, like the NY Times, and CBS 60 Minutes, in obfuscating the distinction between Chronic Intractable Pain and Substance Abuse with your recent Town Meeting on the “Opioid Epidemic”.
In doing so, you misinformed millions of gullible American television viewers about the nature of pain, pain treatment, and addiction. At the same time, you insulted and disheartened the millions of Americans who live with Chronic Intractable Pain and maintain a semblance of normal behavior only because of our access to effective and safr chronic opioid therapy.
In your terrible misjudgment, you’ve placed the problem of opioid substance abuse at the feet of those wise and compassionate physicians who understand why pain must be treated with often with chronic opioid therapy in many cases.
The “opioid crisis” is a media fabrication based on flawed CDC opioid-related mortality rates. The information regarding these flaws is out there, yet you’ve missed this story completely. It is a complicated one and can’t be told in a Town Meeting or sound byte, yet the threads of this problem in the accurate reporting of accidental death attributed to opioids are freely available, as written in Dr. Robert Twillman’s What’s Really Driving Opioid-Related Death Rates? (http://updates.pain-topics.
TV doctor Sanjay Gupta writes that opioid overdose is the #1 preventable cause of death in America. Why does he ignore the CDC’s own figures — 800,000 annual deaths in America are attributed to the use of alcohol.
More Americans die each year from medical error than those deaths now attributed to opioid overdose. Certainly these deaths are preventable.
Dr. Gupta and the hashtag #DoctorAccountability hint that physicians writing legitimate prescriptions for suffering Americans are behind the opioid problem. While some physicians certainly need more education regarding opioids and their use, the rise in overdose figures attributed to opioids has little to do with the millions of Americans treated with chronic opioid therapy for their Chronic Intractable Pain conditions.
For us each and every analgesic pill is preciously guarded. These medications allow us to go to school, raise a family, follow a career, participate in our communities, and in other ways, pursue happiness within our medical limits. And no Dr. Gupta, the meducation doesn’t take away all of our pain because of opioid tolerance, but the pills do provide enough relief to allow a semblance of normality in our day to day life.
Attacking physician/researcher Dr. Russell Portnoy is a low blow, based in ignorance of this great man’s part in the renaissance of pain study and treatment that blossomed during these past 35 years. Dr. Portnoy, along with countless other physicians and researchers have helped millions of suffering Americans regain function and purpose in their lives because of their pain treatment. Multimodal pain therapy is nothing new, doctor. People who live with Chronic Intractable Pain have tried every medical treatment known, and plenty that have been unproven but promised to offer relief.
Has CNN investigated how the American medical insurance industry denies many effective pain treatment modalities to the patients who need them, and who have had proven benefit with them in the past?
CNN, like the President, the Medical Industrial Complex, legislators and regulators, and the American media has mistaken the tree for the forest in terms of this crisis in American public health.
In 2011, the Institute of Medicine published a revealing document — Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming, Prevention, Care, Education, and Research, which states:
“Every year, about 100 million adult Americans experience chronic pain, a condition that costs the nation between $560 billion and $635 billion annually.”
Here’s the real epidemic, ladies and gentlemen — the pain epidemic that results in the daily suffering of millions of Americans, and that is responsible for more medical spending than heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, combined. Chronic Intractable Pain is a disease that causes disability and destroys lives and families, yet CNN and the other above-mentioned guardians of our society have ignored this devastating disease.
Where is your reporting on America’s Pain Epidemic?
I wonder if any major American media outlet has the journalistic integrity to peel back the layers of this story?
Look to the blogs, the patient support groups, and talk with real people who deal with moderate to severe pain every day. Talk to the real pain doctors who treat us. Talk with America’s leading pain physician, Dr. Forrest Tennant, MD, PhD. Talk with the American Academy of Pain Medicine. Read the Journal of Pain Research. Talk to the International Academy for the Study of Pain, whose 2010 Declaration of Montreal declares that every human being has a right to effective pain care (which doesn’t mean a day’s worth of Vicodin followed by OTC ibuprofen after a root canal, as suggested by a recent pain study.)
It is here you’ll find the real horror show, and maybe then you’ll learn how inflammatory reporting on the “Opioid Epidemic” stigmatizes and harms millions of people who already suffer daily due to a national mass hysteria known as opioiphobia.
The information is out here, so get out and look for it. Are you journalists or a mouthpiece for the Medical Industrial Complex?
I leave you a few unbiased facts regarding chronic pain treatment with opioids and addiction from award winning medical writer Maia Szalavitz:
Please stop whipping up fear and start reporting the facts about America’s greatest public health challenge — the pain epidemic.