By Ed Coghlan.
There’s a growing momentum for returning to what many in the chronic pain community believe is a balance in the discussion on opioid prescribing. And it’s coming from people trained to treat chronic pain patients.
University of Utah anesthesiologist Perry Fine has treated pain for the last three decades and worries that emphasis on opioid prescribing is hurt chronic pain patients.
In an op-ed published in the Salt Lake City Tribune, Dr. Fine warns that the war on drugs is leading to untreated pain.
In it he writes, “the heartbreak of drug abuse and addiction won’t be solved by preventing patients and their doctors from using and prescribing opioids appropriately and only when necessary as a component of interdisciplinary pain care. The interdisciplinary to serious unrelenting and life-altering pain as practiced in my academic facility and similar centers around the country, has been shown to be the most effective way to sustain improvements in health related and functional outcomes. It is a lack of insurance coverage, insufficient professional education at all levels, and an astonishingly low level for pain research that has helped to drive inappropriate prescribing of opioids.”
Dr. Fine joins a growing chorus on pain specialists who are frustrated with the binary approach that the government has taken to the opioid crackdown. The people who have been fueling the considerable media and result public attention on the “evils of opioids” have simply given alternative strategies with how to treat pain.
In fact, often they don’t even talk about the treatment of pain–but simply the treatment of addiction.
Dr. Jay Joshi–a nationally known pain specialist in Chicago echoed these themes in a recent article he wrote for Quartz Media that the National Pain Report shared with its readers.
“This deeply misguided, if predictable, response threatens to deprive millions of Americans of relief from persistent, even debilitating pain. Instead of retreating from treating their pain altogether, we should focus on educating doctors on the multitude of safe, effective methods for treating pain in its various forms,” Dr. Joshi wrote.
Both Dr. Joshi and Dr. Fine pointed out more training is needed in the treatment of pain.
Joshi pointed out there are no residencies offered in pain management and estimates that 90% of the “pain specialists” in America have no formal, accredited fellowship training in pain management.
If we may be allowed an editorial note, the commentaries by Dr. Fine and by Dr. Joshi reinforce what we are hearing from dozens of pain physicians, advocates and patients that we speak with. The interdisciplinary treatment of pain must not be reduced to whether opioids are bad or good. The physical and mental health of millions of Americans and their loved ones depend on it.