Has University Of NM Found The “Holy Grail” Of Stopping Opiate Abuse ?



HSC pain center lowers state opioid abuse

With the help of a Health Sciences Center research group, New Mexico’s accidental opioid overdose deaths and addictions are down for the first time in years…

Funny, overdoses in New Mexico are usually either “accidental” or “unintentional,” and no one wants to publicly connect drug overdoses with the increased suicide rate.  And how does one calculate the addiction rates in the state of New Mexico?  Another survey?

A new study released by the UNM Pain Consultation and Treatment Center shows that a new state-mandated training program for doctors and clinicians is resulting in significantly fewer opioid painkillers being prescribed to patients, which has led to less addiction and fewer overdoses…

Other states have attempted to tackle the problem of prescription opiate addiction in a number of ways, often with mandated dosing thresholds — meaning doctors and clinicians were only allowed to prescribe a certain amount of total milligrams per year. This situation led some doctors to feel too restrained in the way they treated their patients, Katzman said.

So Katzman and others working on the state Senate bill decided to go in a different direction: mandating ongoing pain management training instead…

Since beginning the training, Katzman and her team have been collecting data on prescription rates and overdose deaths. Their research paper, titled “The Public Health Crisis of Chronic Pain and Addiction — Rules and Values,” showed a 16 percent drop in the morphine milligram equivalent prescribed in New Mexico between 2012 and 2014, a 16 percent drop in the valium milligram equivalent, a decline in the overdose death rate and a significant decline in the dispensing of high-dose opioids, like 80 milligram Oxycontin pills…

Our hypothesis is that this education has been very effective…

You know, education is usually effective.  As to whether this increased education effort has been “very” effective, I wouldn’t go that far.  (After all, most of this education is information doctors should already know.)  For instance, additional education about prescription medications and additional treatments for chronic pain don’t really address the heroin side of this problem.

This is about supply.  First, the DEA has constricted the supply of prescription medications, so that would be one reason for a reduction in overdoses.  The additional reduction in prescribing by doctors themselves also reduces the supply.  Less drugs, less people taking them, less overdoses.

But none of this information tells us how pain patients are being treated in New Mexico.  The few comments from actual patients that I’ve come across describe things like signs at doctor’s offices that say they don’t treat pain patients.

New Mexico has always been a state where alternative treatments were available, and the University of New Mexico’s pain program includes treatments like acupuncture.  But I don’t know too many people living in New Mexico — one of the poorest states in the U.S. — who can afford the “integrative” treatment approach.

And while the University can shout the success of these programs from the rooftops, until I hear directly from patients, I’m reserving my judgment.

Of course there is no mention of the state’s Medical Cannabis Program being part of the reason for the reduction in overdoses in this state.  The reduction the state is seeing right now is minimal, and could be so much better if the cannabis program was more affordable, accessible, and inclusive.  With legalization, the overdose rate would decrease even further.

So, has this education program made a difference?  I guess it depends on what kind of results you’re looking for… How has it affected pain patients?  It appears no one wants to report on that issue.

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