Opioids vital for many pain sufferers

April 22, 2010

I am writing in response to the article published today by Nancy Rosen-Cohen "The Quiet Epidemic: Prescription Drugs Destroys Millions of Lives." Please provide balanced coverage to the 76 million Americans who live with chronic debilitating pain who use opioid medications responsibly so they may continue to be productive working mothers, fathers, husbands and wives. Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Pain is a hidden epidemic and those who suffer are stigmatized by unbalanced reporting on the issue.

The truth is that most people who take opioids for pain will never become addicted and do not get the same "high" as those who are addicted to these substances. Drug abuse or addiction is more likely to occur if a client has a history of drug abuse or trauma. It is important for treatment providers to be aware of pseudo-addiction when a client's pain is being under-treated, resulting in "addictive"-like behaviors such as hoarding, complaints of lost medications, or increased requests for medication.

Some state statutes and regulations still confuse physical dependence or analgesic tolerance with addiction. Physical dependence, analgesic tolerance, and high dosage/frequency do not equate with addiction. Studies show that addiction does not occur in any greater frequency in the chronic pain population than it does in the general population.

There is a great deal of misinformation regarding opioids, addiction and chronic pain even among health care providers. Put all three together and you are dealing with a complex issue mired in morality, legality and just plain fear. A big dose of education and research is needed so that effective treatment options are available to some of the most vulnerable populations in our society-

Mary French RN, MSW, LCSW-C

Pain Connection, Board of Directors

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