Reaction: Did 60 Minutes Tell the Whole Story?

Reaction: Did 60 Minutes Tell the Whole Story?

The 60 Minutes story on the explosion in the use of heroin in Ohio underscored one problem: heroin use is on the increase. And the segment pointed out that the use of opioid pain medication is fueling it.

The story didn’t address the issue that many pain advocates are trying to raise – that addiction and opioid use are not connected that directly.

A former president of the American Academy of Pain Management called the 60 Minutes conclusions “a reductionist view.”

It is more complicated than just to think of it as a supply issue, said Dr. Lynn Webster, who is author of an outstanding book on chronic pain called “The Painful Truth”. “Politicians and regulators want to vilify something that they can easily do something about but the solutions are not so simple. And those solutions aren’t sexy.”

Dr. Webster thinks all of the emphasis on the consumer is misplaced.

“Payers and government themselves are major contributors to the problem. Let’s have an honest, transparent discussion or we will just continue to lose lives.”

For rehabilitation expert and pain patient advocate Terri Lewis PhD, the problem is overprescribing, but not of opioids. She said that the overprescribing of opioids peaked over ten years ago and that opioids are not in the top ten of drug classes that are being overprescribed.

“Deaths associated with poly-pharmacy (5 or more prescriptions in the last 30 days) are greater than deaths due to opioids,” she said. “My fear is that with the reduction of opioid prescribing in this climate of hysteria, we are seeing an increase in prescribing drugs in the classes associated with overprescribing and drug related deaths. Many of these will be people with chronic pain.”

“This hysteria is supported by people whose industries will benefit from manufacturing a climate of fear and who will prey on the most vulnerable,” she added.” Physicians get paid for the prescriptions they write as a consequence of the visits that are billed.  We never measure whether the pills have any impact for the consumer.”

If you watched the 60 Minutes last night, most of the stories about heroin abuse and overdose deaths involved young people. And she doesn’t think this is a problem cause by opioid prescriptions but by something much larger, a sense of belonging.

“As for kids playing with drugs, that is a social and cultural problem unrelated to persons with chronic pain,” Dr. Lewis said. “Kids who play with drugs do it for social connectedness – this is the loneliest generation of young people ever with too much money, time, no social attachments, no jobs…instant gratification.”

Readers of the National Pain Report have also begun to weigh in. For many, the 60 Minutes story emphasizing addiction and the role opioids play in it missed the point.

A reader identified as Martha wrote:

Adding up stories like the one on 60 Minutes that have been broadcast in the past few years and I’m trying to remember similar stories regarding chronic pain patients not receiving adequate pain management that were broadcast on network news shows. It seems that (coverage of) the addicts far, far outweigh those not receiving adequate pain management. Which explains a lot.”

We’ll be following up with additional commentary. Leave your opinion about the 60 Minutes story.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 11 comments for this article
  1. Michelle Collins at 11:11 am

    Very poor journalism by 60 minutes indeed! There are 100 million chronic pain patients suffering in pain and you are to tell me we are the face of a heroin epidemic? I call it BS, we suffer in serious pain every single day! We are NOT addicts, we are dependent on our pain meds because we need it to help live a somewhat normal life! Do they have any idea how many people would be laying in bed suffering every single day!!! Take away our meds and you will create an heroin epidemic and a suicide epidemic for sure! I have NEVER once abused my pain meds ever! Pain patients go through rigorous drug testing, urine samples, pill counts on demand. We have to go the the Drs. every month to see our Pain Drs to get a refill for our pain medication, and some of us will drive a distance to find the best pain Dr there is around to treat a specific Disease! But you want to treat us like criminals, how about treating the criminals like criminals and leave us alone. If we are not breaking the law then why should we be punished? Would you take away pills that treated someone who had a heart aliment, a diabetic who needed insulin I would think not! So why are you punishing pain?

  2. Scott michaels at 8:12 am

    Go to 60 minutes and cnn facebook and share how they mistold the story. Let them kn ow that there are millions of us suffering and we are being grouped in with street junkies and bored kids whose parents have to blame a pill for their kids addiction. We take our meds as directed. But if you take them away hmmm, what will we do.
    These arrogant ####### need to be smacked down
    Already.

  3. Becky at 3:50 am

    The blame of opioids for your addiction is just bs, people have addictive qualities you use a drug, you like it , you look for other drugs, become addicted. I am a chronic pain pts suffering from medical harm, I have suffered for 10 yrs from this, opioids was the only thing that saved me from ending my life. They are not evil, they help so many live a somewhat normal life. The media needs to start understanding what we live with daily,.it is far worse then an addiction, we cannot turn our pain over to rehab, this is something we live with for the rest of our lives. We try many forms of relief, from opioids to OTC supplements. We never stop looking for that remedy to our pain. It is very disheartening to know that pts are not able to get their meds, is it fair to these people to live in bed the rest of their lives, to their family and friends. I have taken opioids for 10 yrs, never have I abused my meds, I take as prescribed, but now I am going to pay the loss of these meds because of the addicts and druggies, is this fair?

  4. marty at 3:12 am

    60 minutes obviously doesn’t know a thing about chronic pain or how to report on it. Maybe they should hire some chronic pain journalist to get the truth out there. Our lives are hell, pure hell and there are some of us who are lucky enough to be able to get our vicodin or whatever just to give us some sort of a life, dull the pain, make our thinking clearer etc. We are not drug addicts and do not abuse our drugs. Some are not so lucky and don’t get this help or are taken off it cold turkey to live in excruciating pain with no hope. Yes there are some who may turn to heroin because its the last choice they have, a choice they don’t want but have been forced into. When a doctor isn’t allowed or doesn’t give them the help they need so desperately then they fend for themselves. Don’t label us or punish those of us who use our pain medications as they should be used into your unverified reason for heroin use. Hell I remember them saying the same thing 40 years ago. Pass the buck or in this matter the truth that is out there. Unless you live with chronic pain you have no right to label us as drug abusers when we are not and you don’t have a clue what our days and nights are like.

  5. Terri Lewis at 11:19 pm

    http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleID=2467782&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social_jamaim&utm_campaign=article_alert&utm_content=automated

    This recently released study (11-02 JAMA) finds that adverse events are strongly associated with off label prescribing practices, particularly for drugs approved by FDA between the years of 1981 – 1995. Women are particularly vulnerable, and polypharmacy (5-7 drugs) prescribing practices strongly associated with adverse events.
    Why should we be concerned? Because as opioids are reduced, persons with chronic pain are consistently pushed into classes of drugs prescribed off label that include anti-epileptics, anti depressants, and anti-psychotics – a purpose for which these medications were not trialed. And as this article has indicated, we aren’t tracking this, particularly when opioids are combined with off label prescribing practices as they so frequently are, e.g. opioids and lyrica or gabapentin or pregalbin, or tramadol in combo with other classes of off label applications.

  6. Patti Jensvold at 5:24 pm

    Another one-sided view. They continue to demoniz

  7. Dee at 5:03 pm

    Was very disappointed at how poorly they outlined the story on 60 minutes last night. They touched on none of the true facts about chronic pain patients daily struggles. Keep showing this kind of journalism and there will be so many pain patients unable to carry on any semblance of a normal life.
    Can someone please do us a favor and tell a true story. Most of us in chronic pain take our meds under the watchful eye of our doctors and loved ones with NO trouble at all!

  8. Nora Hull at 2:00 pm

    My feeling is that people in pain who cannot get a proper prescription for a pain med may just turn to heroin for relief as it is cheaper and available everywhere.

  9. Kim Miller at 1:01 pm

    It’s maddening to see this over and over, each time knowing the negative impact on chronic pain patients’ lives, and each time hearing NO COVERAGE regarding this side of the story. I feel like the fact that 100 million people are suffering from chronic pain in the US is far more interesting than made up stories of how heroin, a scary drug, is making a resurgence and it’s all because of the very medications chronic pain patients need to have any quality of life.

    Try being real journalists and cover the ludicrous nature of how making people suffer by withholding their pain medication will stop the use of illegal drugs and overdosing of prescription drugs. Cover the outrageous denial of legitimate prescriptions by pharmacists for no reason. Cover the countless urine and other drug tests legitimate patients must endure, the pill counts and extra doctor visits to pain specialists, neurologists, psychiatrists, ad infinitum, each writing their own special medications!

    I see a much more interesting story on the fleecing of the sickest, weakest, and most unfairly treated group of patients in this country. Being taken for a ride to systematically scam them for their money, as they’re being used to blame for every problem with drug abuse that arises in this country. All the while, chronic pain patients are living in a stressed and terrified state, afraid that what little pain medication they are still being given, if they’re lucky enough to still receive any, could be taken away the next time a politician needs an issue to bolster themselves or the media needs a story.

    Wake up, America, and see what’s REALLY going on. Nearly everyone knows someone who suffers from chronic pain. Do you ever ask yourself how that person caused a heroin epidemic? Think about it and realize the insanity of the situation, before your loved one loses their pain medication. It’s becoming a nearly daily event, these stories that link pain medications to every drug crisis, often using old data, unproven and exaggerated statistics, and costing chronic pain patients the medication that can be the difference between being able to withstand the daily pain of living and it not being something you can take anymore.

  10. Scottmichaels at 12:04 pm

    Send every comment to 60 minutes they must know that millions of legitimate patient will become bedridden if they continue this type of journalism. Heroin epidemic in ohio is there because its cheap and theres nwothing to do there. I hate hearing peoe blane pain medicine for their kid heroin death. Kids will blame the dentist that gave them pills 4 months earlier. I call bull! Ill bet the parents allowed the kid to take the bottle to school. Ill bet they didnt monitor or ecen hold the medication and give it to him as needed. Any kid thats on heroin started with booze and or pot. The pain meds are an excuse to take blame off of them. Its easier to tell mommy its the doctors fault then saying me and jimmy were drunk and had nothing to do so we tried it. It was awesome but now i have a problem. Oye vey. When did people get so stupid.
    There arw now millions like myself. We are chronic pain patients that ake our medicine as directed. We are at risk of living in extreme pain because people are naive and stupid.
    Think of gun control. None of you want to give up your guns… it our right!! However the same people want to deny the right of a person in pain to aleviate that pain. Believe me if there was another way we would be doing it. There isnt! Let us be! Our lives are better, functional and meaningful now. Without the medication we will be sentenced to a life of complete misery