Leaders in pain management have increasingly been stressing that opioid abuse and its use for pain treatment are two distinct issues.
In recent interviews with the National Pain Report, two highly visible experts made that point.
Dr. Richard Radnovich, a nationally known pain medicine specialist from Boise, Idaho said, “The problem is that we have blurred the lines between 2 distinct problems: chronic pain treatment and substance abuse. The DEA is concerned with the latter. Medical providers just need to do a good job with the former: that is, show that they are using opioids for a legitimate medical purpose; and provide adequate medical care and supervision.”
Dr. Steve Passik, Vice President of Clinical Research and Advocacy at Millennium Health said, “Prescription drug abuse is a massive problem and we have to deal with it, but I’d also to see more consideration given to the person in pain in the dialogue going forward.”
However, over the past weekend, the emphasis of media opinion writers seems to be on the drug abuse and addiction side of the coin.
An op-ed written for the Tennessean by Terry Ashe, the executive director of the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association calling the prescription drug issue in Tennessee an “epidemic”. He mentions the legitimate use of them only in passing.
And in Vermont’s Valley News, it describes New England as being in the grip of an opioid crisis—and talks about the importance of treating addicts—a noble gesture to be sure, but little about legitimate pain medication use.
And last week, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell addressed the issue of prescription drug abuse at the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit in Washington D.C.
“We’ve identified three priority areas where we can focus our efforts to have the most significant impact,” she said at the summit.
- To provide the training, tools and educational resources that health care professionals need to make more informed prescribing decisions.
- To increase the use of naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid overdose. “We are promoting grant funds to encourage states to purchase naloxone and train first responders in its use. We are also encouraging the development of new products that can help reduce overdose-related injuries.”
- We are using medication-assisted treatment to help lift people out of opioid addiction. … We’re also exploring bipartisan policy changes to increase the use of buprenorphine, which is used to treat opioid addiction.”
While the media and bureaucrats were focused on the opioid addiction angle, John Sandherr, a reader of the National Pain Report who is the father of two veterans, reminded us that patients—in this case his sons—need to be remembered.
“My two oldest sons are USMC Vets and both are left with 80% disability rating—the oldest has a bad back caused by training and the other son has combat related injuries. Both have now been denied pain meds that work but there seems to be plenty of antidepressant meds to force on both of them. Neither is depressed—pissed off- but not depressed.”
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