We recently posted a story summarizing the current state of the “opioid crisis”. Since then, an impressive group of pain management experts has weighed in on behalf of pain management patients.
That earlier article traced the recent swings of the opioid prescription control pendulum. Our brief account began with a description of the nearly unregulated state of affairs that existed in the 1990s. It continued with an overview of the current search for a balanced, reasonable, and responsible set of solutions. This article focuses on a couple of more recent events.
Opioid overuse is real, and a really serious problem
Let’s be clear. There’s no doubt that opioid overuse continues to present a threatening nationwide health crisis. 72,000 Americans died from overdoses in 2017. That’s a new record. And two-thirds of those overdoses were from opioids, whether prescription or illicit.
However, responses to the crisis across the nation have often been led by politicians. There is reason to believe their remedial efforts are aimed more at voters than at the underlying sources of the problem.
And the politicians’ responses to the opioid crisis often appear to be based on truly underwhelming medical knowledge. For example, the Oregon Health Authority’s recent proposal. They want to force all Oregon Medicaid patients suffering from chronic pain to reduce their opioid intake to zero.
Forced opioid tapering can harm patients
“The debate has turned into an argument of opioid yes or opioid no”, Prof. Darnell told the Commission. “But it’s not a black-and-white issue. In fact, the solution is in the gray. A forced taper may destabilize an individual both medically and psychologically.”
“Our primary concern is the well-being of patients. In our study of voluntary patient-centered opioid tapering, we apply patient-centered considerations and very close monitoring. We collect the data on how to implement safe and compassionate opioid reduction in patients who desire this pathway. This ensures good management of their pain.”
Pain management experts draft an open letter to all stakeholders
Recently, Prof. Beth Darnell of Stanford University joined more than 100 other highly regarded pain management experts to write an open letter. These authorities represent institutions such as Oxford University, Stanford University, the University of Toronto, and Yale University, among dozens of other respected pain research centers worldwide.
The open letter published by these influential leaders is addressed to “every level of care”. These levels include medical care professionals, pharmaceutical practitioners, and health insurers. The letter is also specifically directed to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The authors jointly state that they are “deeply concerned about forced opioid tapering in patients receiving long-term prescription opioid therapy for chronic pain. This is a large-scale humanitarian issue.”The letter asks for the development of policies designed to confront the current wave of heavy-handed over-regulation of opioid prescription practices. The letter states:
- Regardless of one’s view on the advisability of high-dose opioid therapy, every thoughtful clinician recognizes rapid tapering as a genuine threat to a large number of patients who are often medically complex and vulnerable.
- Indeed, even slower taper should include realistic, patient-centered goals that are achievable and account for individual patient factor.
The missive goes on to point out that almost 18 million Americans are currently on long-term regimens of prescription opioids. The authors ask the Department of Health and Human Services to acknowledge the particular needs of these legacy patients by adopting policies that recognize and serve those needs.
An answer to the opioid crisis lies somewhere in the middle
Over prescription and illicit opioids continue to be a serious and widespread problem. But eliminating any and all opioid use, whether gradually or abruptly, is not the answer. Judiciously prescribed and carefully monitored opioids should remain available as a component of an effective treatment program for chronic pain.
Why Nuvo Spine and Sports is your best choice for pain management
We approach our work armed with tried and true medical techniques and state-of-the-art regenerative strategies bred from sports medicine and the neurological sciences.
The Nuvo team of medical professionals is solely dedicated to minimizing or eradicating pain by resolving the underlying conditions that cause the pain. We are proud that we consistently achieve that goal and successfully enhance our patients’ overall quality of life.