Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 at
The NY Times on 4/9/2012 ran a story about the overuse and unintended negative consequences of strong (opioid) pain medication. They mentioned opposing views concerning the liberal use of opioids. I participated in a debate in 1995 about the inappropriate use of the diagnosis “Chronic Pain Syndrome”(CPS) in patients whose muscles had not been assessed as a cause of their persistent pain, which resulted in the justification to put some of these patients on opioids for the rest of their lives.
Since then one of the largest growth industries in medicine is the evaluation and treatment of back and neck pain, currently accounting for ~$100 billion in direct medical costs. The pain juggernaut is fueled in part by ignoring muscles which are the most common reason for pain complaints. Addressing the incorrect causes of pain leads to inappropriate, expensive and potentially harmful treatments with poor outcomes, persisitent pain, and overuse of opioids. CPS is a license to prescribe life-long medication. Chronic use of opioids has not been studied for its overall impact on patients with CPS but neither have any of the other medications that we are now using. Does the marginal reduction in pain in many of the patients taking these medications justify their costs and side effects? As the Times reports, for some patients the treatment is actually making them worse.
Imagine if some of these patients had pain that could be eliminated. Many do; it’s from muscles that are not evaluated or treated in a systematic way. My new book, End Back Pain Forever, to be released by Atria on June 5, 2012 is a wakeup call to change the way we are treating common pain problems.
Friday, April 6th, 2012 at
A recent article revealed that 2/3 of patients who received opioids (drugs like morphine) for 90 days following surgery were still taking them one year later. It doesn’t make sense that there still is pain from the surgery one year later. Did these patients become dependent or addicted to the drugs? Did they really need the medication for pain in the first place?
It was suggested that patients who undergo minimally painful surgeries should perhaps never receive opioids for pain. This thinking is consistent with the current discussion in the USA about the dangers of overuse and abuse of opioids. Annual emergency room visits and unintentional deaths from opioids have dramatically increased in the past five years. Widespread, persistent use of opioids is increasing without a clear understanding of the benefits or of all the associated risks. Making it harder to get the medication and limiting its availability is one way to reduce the unwanted effects.
Many physicians have been alarmed over the misuse of opioids and will not prescribe them at all or will often provide less than adequate doses to effectively treat their patient’s pain. I recently saw a young man who, despite severe back pain that would require surgery, was denied opioid pain medication because he had a high score on a test that measured risk for its misuse. Since I understood the risk, I was able to successfully provide opioids while staying in close contact with the patient and his mother before and after surgery.
Indiscriminate provision of opioids is potentially harmful but so are overly restrictive attitudes and rules governing its availability. Each patient deserves to be evaluated as an individual so that compassionate and rational pain care can be provided.
Wednesday, November 24th, 2010 at
The painkilling drug Darvon (propoxyphene) was banned this week by the
FDA because it can cause potentially fatal arrhythmias (abnormal heart
rhythms). But other pain medications, like methadone, can also cause
dangerous arrhythmias. I have been asked a few times why was Darvon
banned, but not methadone?
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