The recent Op-Ed "The Quiet Epidemic, Prescription Drug Abuse Destroys Millions of Lives" distorted the role of pain medication and healthcare providers in the drug abuse epidemic. Ms. Rosen-Cohen stated that "More often than not, the abuse began when a person was taking pain pills as prescribed." In fact, the incidence of addiction as a result of taking pain medicine as prescribed is known to be small. The latest numbers from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicate that over half of those using pain relievers nonmedically get the drug from someone they know (not their doctor).
The role of healthcare providers in the war on drugs is undoubtedly critical. We serve as an important point of first contact for many people entering drug treatment. We endeavor to address addiction and substance abuse with concern and compassion. Our obligations however also extend to treating pain when present.
Pain is the number one cause of lost productivity in our culture. A life in pain is a life without joy, solace or fulfillment. As healthcare providers dedicated to alleviating pain, we will diligently pursue the relief of pain for our patients, while recognizing the need to balance both risks and benefits.
Dr. Beth B. Murinson is a board member and Dr. Timothy J. Keay is the president of Maryland Pain Initiative.