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Denying Chronic Pain Sufferers Pain Medication Can Only Worsen the Opioid Crisis in 2018

Denying Chronic Pain Sufferers Pain Medication Worsen The Opioid Crisis In 2018 - Fight Addiction

If pain is your constant companion, shouldn’t you have the right to pain relief according to current medical advances?

Is it fair for the public to look down on you for needing painkillers? How about being met with indifference and discredited by the doctors you are reduced to pleading to help you?

This is the situation many chronic pain sufferers are finding themselves in today.

The New War on Drugs Could Worsen the Opioid Crisis

The opioid addiction epidemic in America has sparked much concern over the staggering death toll it is taking on our citizens. So, we have waged a new war on drugs: prescription opioids.

Prescription opioids, or opiates, derive from the poppy plant and can be natural or synthetic. Opiates have been used since the dawn of civilization. From Hippocrates prescribing juice of the poppy to the morphine used for injuries in the Civil War, opiates have been the mainstay of pain relief.

Here are the most common prescription opioids today:

  • Vicodin, Norco, hydrocodone
  • OxyContin, Percocet, oxycodone
  • Codeine, Tylenol with codeine
  • Fentanyl patches, Duragesic, fentanyl
  • Dilaudid, hydromorphone
  • Demerol
  • MS Contin, Kadian, morphine

The class of opioids even includes the illegal drug heroin and some illicit forms of fentanyl and opium.

Opioid Addiction Help or Harm?

Does putting restrictions on opioid prescriptions help or harm chronic pain sufferers?

Political issues, the big business of pharmaceutical companies and health insurance all have a big impact on the practice of medicine.

With the mounting death toll related to opioids, doctors have been prescribing less pain medication. Similarly, state governments are implementing new laws on how much pain medication doctors can prescribe.

These restrictions make it harder for people with legitimate needs to get their pain medicine, even causing them harm in some cases. But, restrictions on painkillers will not be able to prevent all opioid use or solve the opioid epidemic. (It’s not like all of the current laws against illegal drugs are preventing heroin addiction.)

Q & A and Debates

Opioid Death Statistic 2016 Infographic - Fight Addiction NowIn the debate on how best to handle opioid abuse and overdose, the group with the softest voice is those patients who rely on opioids to get through life.

People with lifelong chronic pain issues have few or no other options for effective relief. Facing a lifetime of suffering from a non-curable condition or an old injury significantly reduces one’s quality of life.

Q: Is it fair to people needing chronic pain management to treat them like drug addicts or worse, that they are not really in pain and not credible?

And where does that leave people in pain who are now suddenly unable to get the medication they need to manage their lives?

How can another person, even a medical professional, adequately deduce your pain?

A: Individual pain is as unique as our brains are from each other, and everyone has a different tolerance.

A few will find an alternative holistic plan for some relief, but many are turning to illicit opioids, as evidenced by upward trends in heroin abuse. Some are looking for pain relief in alcohol and other substances. Others will lose the ability to contribute to society as pain cripples them into being unable to function or work a job. Unore people will be forced to apply for disability or government assistance.

There is even a debate among doctors and medical professionals regarding the opioid addiction epidemic. Doctors focused on the dangers of opioid use tout the belief that chronic pain patients should concentrate on their emotional reaction to pain with coping and acceptance strategies, and only secondarily try to reduce their physical pain.

Physicians focused on compassionate care take the stance that if a patient has tried several other treatments without positive results, painkillers should be provided so the patient retains some quality of life.

Who Should Make Health Care Decisions?

It is true that the numbers of accidental overdose and death attributed to opioids have risen significantly and are disturbing. Drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin need to be prescribed and monitored carefully by a conscientious physician.

But the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers showing 30,000-plus opioid-related deaths each year can be put in perspective with the 15,000 anti-inflammatory (like ibuprofen) drug deaths per year that no one is talking about.

However, when we have politicians and businesses dictating to doctors what the best medical practices are, we are not allowing the most qualified people to make decisions concerning patients’ health.

Medically trained physicians judge best which treatments suit their patients, not the government, not the pharmaceutical industry or lobbyists with the most money, and not the insurance companies.

Some pharmacies are imposing distribution limits on opioids. Some insurance companies, formerly the champions of opioids as an inexpensive front-line treatment, are starting to require a prior authorization for medications like morphine and fentanyl.

The Politics of Opioid Dependence

President Trump established a commission last year to examine the opioid crisis and to present solutions. Furthermore, the president declared a national public health emergency after hearing the commission’s findings.

While no one can deny opioids are dangerous, according to some people, this new war on prescription drugs is mostly a political move. Winning wars for a good cause early in a presidency tends to result in positive gains the opinion polls and can set a candidate up for winning a second term.

Prescription Restrictions Causing People to Turn to Stronger Drugs

It is worrisome that the current trends toward limiting doctors’ abilities to legally prescribe painkillers could only worsen the opioid epidemic by pushing more people toward heroin and opioid addiction.

Due to increased awareness, state government oversight and doctors’ fears of punitive measures for prescribing too many narcotics, prescription opioid numbers have decreased over the past few years. However, as rates of prescription opioids dispensed have gone down, rates of heroin use have gone up.

The original crackdown on prescription opioid medications is what led many to switch to heroin. Heroin is very similar in chemical makeup to prescription pills, only much stronger and more powerfully addictive.

Because of current societal views, people dealing with chronic pain can be left untreated or under-treated. Additionally, they are often stigmatized as drug abusers and criminals.

Alternatives to Limiting Painkillers

Instead of penalizing the majority for the troubles of the minority, we could focus on monitoring patients for risky behavior in opioid use.

We already have stringent state monitoring plans in place on controlled substances. These programs check for multiple prescriptions, multiple doctors and early refills. This helps identify patients who are misusing the drugs and are thereby at risk for accidental overdose.

By putting control of patients’ health back in the hands of qualified physicians and the patients themselves, mutual responsibility for safety can be shared by the ones most affected. It is a better than forcing chronic pain sufferers to choose between a life of agony and criminalization and addiction.

An Engaging Discussion on Human Rights

How does the risk of societal harm stack up against the rights of the individual to have effective pain relief?

Not everyone who uses pain medication is a drug addict. Should people with a legitimate need for medication be denied it because other people abuse it? By that logic, we would re-establish prohibition.

Denying painkillers to those in pain will no more stop the use and abuse of opioids than prohibition stopped alcohol use and abuse. Addiction and drug abuse are much deeper issues than a prohibition-type regime could ever solve.

Have you been denied medication or found it more difficult to obtain legitimate prescription medications? What have your experiences or your family’s experiences been with prescription opioids? Join us on our forum to discuss this hot topic, or learn more about the risks of prescription drugs by clicking below.

See Our Prescription Drug Fact Sheet

Is Pain Management and Care Being Forgotten in the Fight Against Opioids?

Pain Management and Care Being Forgotten in Fight Against Opioids - Fight Addiction Now

Opioids – A Blessing Turned into a Curse?

The opioid epidemic in America has received so much attention that it makes some wonder whether all of the recent media and government involvement is helping or hurting our citizens in the long run.

The White House has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. Tens of thousands of Americans die each year from opioid-related deaths.

And yet, pain management is a real issue. We should have the right to pain-controlling medications when needed. And right now, opioids are the most effective option to combat severe or chronic pain.

Pain Management and Care in Relation to the Opioid Epidemic

Ending the Addiction Stigma Fight Addiction NowA new study published in the journal JAMA Surgery found that post-surgical patients are at increased risk of addiction because of the pain medication necessary during recovery. The researchers concluded that patients should be administered smaller doses of pain meds post-surgery and counseled on the risks and proper uses of opioids.

For a year now, Michigan’s University Hospital has been implementing these new guidelines of dispensing fewer post-op pills. The results have been favorable, as evidenced by:

  • Patients’ reported pain not increasing
  • Requests for refills remaining the same
  • Patients actually using fewer pills

Opioid Laws

Opioids have long been a controlled substance, but new laws in half of the U.S. now limit the number of pills a doctor can prescribe at one time. More hospitals are implementing the practices adopted at Michigan’s University Hospital.

The current regulatory climate is focused on reducing the number of pills dispensed and discouraging patients from using opioids unless as a last resort. Many states expect doctors to present certain talking points to their patients. In many cases, state law requires patients to sign a document affirming they understand the risks and rules of opioids.

Problems in Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

The vast number of overdose deaths related to opioids seems to have frightened America into single-mindedly setting a mission to reduce those sheer numbers. There are many who are caught up in the struggle of opioid addiction. But what about those who are caught up in the struggle against chronic pain?

Are people who suffer with daily pain now S.O.L. and without help?

A nationwide survey finds that 34 percent of doctors feel that moving away from prescribing painkillers for patients with chronic pain issues may be hurting people. More than one-third of the physicians polled reported that pulling back on pain medications prolongs patients’ misery.

Quality of Life Questions

To deny someone suffering in pain the medication we have available through science is a travesty. If we have the medical knowledge available to help people, we should use it.

At the same time, we don’t want to harm others’ quality of life by allowing addictive and potentially lethal medications to go unchecked and rampantly used for nonmedical purposes.

Insurance Issues

One aspect people forget to consider in this fight against opioids is what people can afford based on what their insurance covers. Insurance companies often do not cover Schedule III drugs. Drugs in this class are far less addictive and often equally effective at managing pain. Many insurance plans do cover drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl, Schedule II drugs, which are more addictive opioids.

Oftentimes, insurance companies require burdensome prior authorizations for drugs like buprenorphine, an effective Schedule III opioid drug. Prior authorizations require time and research from the doctor’s office and are only approved under certain conditions. This is annoying for doctors and pharmacies alike, and can mean a potential waiting period for patients to receive their medication — if it ever gets approved.

Buprenorphine works well for chronic pain while avoiding the typical tolerance and severe respiratory depression that comes with most Schedule II opioids, which do not require a prior authorization.

Why? Money. Pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies are big business. And insurance companies pay for the cheapest effective drugs first. So, because certain opioids are cheaper, doctors and insurers push these medications to patients first.

Ethical Implications

Insurers restricting more expensive but less addictive painkillers just doesn’t seem right. A doctor’s oath includes the promise to “do no harm.” But insurance companies take no such oaths and make no such promises. They focus on their bottom line. But is this ethical? Is this in the best interest of patients?

Perhaps it keeps premiums lower. But it begs the question, “Should insurance companies be for-profit to begin with?”

Doctors have received a lot of criticism for prescribing opioids, but maybe insurers should shoulder some of that blame. It sure seems like insurers are trying to remove the responsibility from themselves and not factor in the best care and quality of life of the insured.

Now, because of the harrowing opioid problem, insurance companies are starting to limit the opioid medication they will cover.

Many insurance companies cover very little in the way of addiction treatment. That raises another debate that if the insurers are contributing to the problem but unwilling to fix it, where does that leave patients?

Weigh In

What do we do to balance the opioid addiction crisis in the scales of chronic pain sufferers? We want to hear you weigh in on the debate!

Have we lost sight of the real problems of the opioid epidemic? Are people in pain suffering needlessly? Or are we just continuing to shuffle blame and not coming up with real solutions to help those affected by opioid addiction and chronic pain?

Chime in with your opinions and experiences! Be part of the debate, the search for answers and finding a solution. We invite your comments below, or feel free to discuss this topic in our forum.