Recent articles in The Sentinel concerning opioid abuse may leave readers with the impression that an opioid prescription is a prescription to become a drug addict. This is not true. The vast majority of people who have legitimate prescriptions for opioids — between 70 and 80 percent — use them responsibly for addressing their chronic pain.

Living with pain takes the joy out of life. Pain makes it hard to think of anything else but the pain. The fact that an overwhelming number of patients who are prescribed opioids do not become addicted seems to be left out of the discussion, which makes doctors and patients look irresponsible.

Patients in this area who have opioid prescriptions are not given them lightly. They must sign a lengthy pain-medication plan and agree to periodic drug testing and have diagnoses for certain painful conditions. Doctors are very careful to not over-prescribe.

Contrary to the impression given in one article, “The vast majority of people who report misusing prescription opioids did not get them from a doctor under medical supervision, and as many as 70 percent reported prior use of substances like cocaine and methamphetamines,” according to an article on Opioid Misuse in the Dec. 6, 2018, issue of Stat magazine. And recent data from the CDC “suggests that illegally manufactured fentanyl, its analogs, and heroin are responsible for well over half of all overdose deaths. Stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines are responsible for another third. Deaths related to prescription opioids come next in line, although many of those who died were not the intended recipient of the prescribed medication.”

Before the early 1990s, people were just expected to live with pain, but the medical community acknowledged that pain needed to be treated. People with true chronic pain are not looking to get high. Correct dosages of pain medications merely make it possible to live without suffering.

Should we revert to having chronic pain sufferers live in pain? There will always be people who are prone to addiction of some kind; to drugs or alcohol, or cigarettes or food.

It is important to acknowledge that there is a greater good served by relieving pain and most people are not abusing these drugs and they should not be stigmatized nor penalized.


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