The April 2018 issue of O Magazine includes a few of my comments in an article that addresses addiction risks for opioids (“Why prescription opioids are so addictive” by Peg Rosen). What’s not stated in this article is my belief that opioids can and do help some people living with chronic pain. This is a nuanced issue that requires individual consideration and treatment planning. Right now the national focus is on opioid risks, and while I applaud this focus it should not come at the expense of patients who need access to their ongoing prescriptions (as I have previously stated in my Huffington Post article and throughout my book Less Pain, Fewer Pills © 2014).

That said, the opioid crisis requires a dedicated focus on treating pain better, especially for individuals who are at risk for substance use disorder or who already have the diagnosis. This month the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative, which doubles current research funding on the topic to $1.1 billion for fiscal year 2018. One aspect of the HEAL Initiative is an increased focus on preventing addiction through improved pain management.  An important aspect of improving pain care involves training all healthcare professionals in evidence-based pain treatment. As I mention in this Washington Post article written by Dr. Keith Humphreys “Why Doctors Don’t use Alternatives to Opioids“, on average pain training remains poor for physicians and other healthcare clinicians. Targeted pain education initiatives are needed for students and healthcare professionals. We need a multi-pronged approach to reducing opioid risks while simultaneously preserving prescriptions for patients who truly need them.

Stay tuned for my next blog posting later this month which highlights my forthcoming invited editorial for Nature on the topic of what’s needed in pain research and policy.

llustration: Doug Chakya

O Magazine, April 2018 issue

Article: “How to Not Get Hooked on Pain Pills” by Peg Rosen