60 Minutes – the nation’s venerable and preeminent television news magazine show – waded into the nation’s heroin epidemic issue on Sunday – and laid the blame for it squarely on opioid pain medication.
60 Minutes went to Ohio which, it reported, had 750 million pain pills prescribed last year in that state alone. It also said that there are 23 heroin deaths reported every week in Ohio.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says “it’s (the heroin use) is the worst epidemic I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
A particularly poignant moment came from the parents of the University of Akron football player Tyler Campbell who died of a heroin overdose. He became addicted to heroin they said after using vicodin to rehabilitate a shoulder surgery.
Absent again from the national reporting was any reference to legitimate use of pain medication.
The National Pain Report ran a story just two days before the 60 Minutes episode that featured Dr. Forest Tenant who speaks out about the responsible and appropriate use of opioid medication to treat intractable pain. In it, his “position paper” outlines the reasons for using opioid medication:
- We have a long-standing standard known as the World Health Organization 3 Step Analgesic Ladder which was developed in 1982. Only when non-opioid treatments fail are opioids used because about everyone knows they have complications.
- There cannot be a cap on dosages as patients vary. The government should certify and recognize the MDs who will prescribe high dose opioids so patients who need high dosages can get the help they need.
- Patients who are currently on opioids and doing well should be left on them.
Already, some National Pain Report readers have weighed in. One of our contributing columnists, Kerry Smith who writes about chronic pain emailed me asking if I had seen the report. (I hadn’t, I was watching the World Series).
Kerry wrote encouraging me to go their website and watch it (which I did Monday morning).
“I have already emailed them and attempted to get them to look at it from a different point of view,” Kerry wrote.
Another columnist, Terri Lewis, PhD sent me this interesting video link from Blue Cross Blue Shield with Dr. Gloria Baciewicz of the University of Rochester that debunks what she calls the “myth” that being prescribed opioids always leads to addiction.
Let us know your thoughts.
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