The opioid crisis is forcing doctors to take different approaches to treating pain. In some cases, patients who have been prescribed opioids for years or decades are being abandoned or forced to quickly taper off opioids — two poor approaches. Other patients are being steered in new directions that can improve pain and function with lower risks. I was honored to be featured in this Scientific American story (May 2017, Author: Stephani Sutherland, Ph.D.) in which the stories of patients are told. Similar to patients I have treated in the past and detailed in Less Pain, Fewer Pills, one featured patient had an astounding result from stopping her opioids while receiving cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain (not general counseling).
There are many sides to the opioid crisis. The patients with a clear medical need should maintain access to the medications that work for them– including opioids. And, there are so many patients taking opioids for whom opioids are not effective for them but have not been offered a different, better pathway that’s right for them.
The notion of supporting access to opioids for some while fighting for access to evidence-based alternatives to opioid treatment can and should coexist. It’s the same fight: The right treatment for the right patient.
I invite you to read the May issue of Scientific American and learn more about what we are doing in the Division of Pain Medicine at Stanford University. Catch a glimpse of my view of how pain psychology is working to help patients with chronic pain reclaim their lives.