Re: “Stopping the epidemic of opioid addiction,” July 15 guest commentary.
Opioids are a valuable tool for treating legitimate pain issues. But the actions of state and federal governments concerning opioid abuse are adversely affecting the ability of people with chronic pain to get the medicine they need.
In conversations with my chronic pain support group and doctors, I’ve learned: some doctors won’t even discuss opioid prescriptions; many doctors have stopped prescribing opioids for any reason; and doctors are very cautious about accepting new patients with chronic pain. The doctors are concerned about being investigated and find it simpler to just avoid the issue. This makes it more difficult for people who properly need opioids to get the help they need. The doctors are caught in the middle. The legitimate patient suffers.
This dilemma must be resolved to allow doctors to practice medicine as they should so those with chronic pain can be treated as they should.
Wayne Buehrer, Littleton
This letter was published in the July 22 edition.
(7/14/2015) Guest Commentary: Stopping the epidemic of opioid addiction
By Sylvia Burwell and John Hickenlooper
On Thursday, we’ll join members of the Colorado Cabinet, the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and others to discuss this commitment, share the ways in which we can best tackle this crisis, and discuss specific, targeted and tangible recommendations to curb overdose deaths and reduce the rate of opioid addiction in Colorado and nationwide…
We must begin by ensuring powerful opioid medications are prescribed appropriately. Nationally, we are developing opioid prescribing guidelines and supporting training and tools for providers to make informed prescribing decisions. In Colorado, the Hickenlooper Administration and the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention have brought together a wide range of partners to help health care providers connect through a Provider and Prescriber Education Workgroup. Colorado now has one of the 10 lowest opioid prescription rates in the nation.
We can do even more with the power of electronic prescription tracking programs. Programs like Colorado’s prescription drug monitoring program allow pharmacists and other health providers to share information and can help identify those at risk for dependence, addiction and overdose. At the federal level, we are increasing investments for these types of programs to expand the scale of their impact…
For those Americans who have fallen into opioid addiction and dependency, we can make the greatest impact by helping them move into recovery. One way we can do this is by expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, which is the use of medication in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies…
“Fallen into opioid addiction and dependency…”? What is that supposed to mean? Sounds like they’re talking about fallen angels, full of sin (opioids) and now living in the hell of dependency… because opioids are now considered more harmful than human suffering.
Does anyone ever “fall” into addiction? Does anyone ever “fall” into cancer, chronic pain, or diabetes? Or do these conditions come with someone or something pushing people into “falling”? Where are the DNA police when we need them? And where’s the attorney who’s going to file a class action lawsuit against surgeons who maim, creating chronic pain patients in their wake?
You’ll notice that “medication” in recovery does not include opioids. (Because if you’re addicted to them, they’re no longer medicine.) Or so they want you to believe. But medications like buprenorphine are not sugar candy. It’s not a placebo effect. The same harms that can befall patients taking opioids also occur in those taking medications approved for the treatment of addiction. But, what the addiction industry calls “harm reduction services,” I call management of a chronic condition. And the patients that use these medications to manage their addictions usually do a lot better than those who choose abstinence.
When we find strategies and ideas that work, we should share them broadly and quickly. Governor Hickenlooper recently co-chaired the National Governor’s Association Policy Academy for Reducing Prescription Drug Abuse, bringing together state leaders on this issue. And the Consortium serves as a stellar example of how health providers, state leadership and top universities can look at the epidemic in new ways and quickly implement the solutions with the power to make the biggest impact.
Ending the opioid crisis will protect our families, our businesses and our communities. It will save lives. For too many Coloradans, a medicine intended to ease pain results in abuse, addiction and, too often, death. We know that by working together and with our partners at all levels of government and across the country, we can take important steps toward ending the opioid crisis.
Sylvia M. Burwell is secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. John Hickenlooper is governor of Colorado. The longer version of this essay is at denverpost.com/opinion.
Lots and lots of anti-drug groups. The drug war is well-represented here. (A representation that we’re all paying for.) And so is the drug-war rhetoric. When you lie to the public about things like the scope of an “epidemic” or “crisis,” it usually backfires on you. I’m not sure when the government will learn that lesson.
But do you see a group representing pain patients? Any government announcements about groups working on viable treatments for chronic pain? Because focusing on drug addiction is so much easier than trying to do something about the real epidemics of chronic pain and suicide.
Now, it’s time for some chocolate (and hopefully, a better internet connection). Thanks for reading my ramblings. (These ramblings also brought to you by Verizon Sucks.)