A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) shed some much-needed light on the truth behind opioid prescriptions and their influence on what is most certainly an addiction epidemic in the United States. In support of this truth, the article cites: “In 2010, there were reportedly as many as 2.4 million opioid abusers in this country, and the number of new abusers had increased by 225% between 1992 and 2000,” and perhaps most disconcerting is that “sixty percent of the opioids that are abused are obtained directly or indirectly through a physician’s prescription.”
Worse yet, very often doctors prescribe opioids despite knowing that these medications are being abused by the client or by individuals in the client’s circle.
Reasons behind Increased Prescription Opioid Consumption
The NEJM article alludes to the following reasons as contributors to the prescription opioid epidemic:
- Changes in how our society approaches pain, i.e. pain is no longer looked at as a normal burden of day-to-day life. It is viewed, rather, as a disease requiring immediate attention.
- This change in how pain is viewed by society as a whole has created a situation in which medicinal philosophies have become more geared toward abating pain than anything else.
- Cultural and philosophical views on pain have created incentives – both financial and reputational – for doctors to prescribe painkillers so that they can quickly move on to the next client and avoid being viewed as lacking in compassion toward the pain a client is feeling.
As illustrated, the three are all directly related and feed into a sort of never-ending cycle, one that cannot be broken by attacking one of the three. It seems to us, rather, that in order to put a dent in prescription opioid addiction, further emphasis should be placed on the need to view addiction as a disease instead of a necessary evil.
In other words, we believe that the ends do not justify the means.
Our Recommendation in Fighting Prescription Drug Abuse
Culturally, perceptions among both doctors and clients have to shift toward considering the implications of perpetually approaching pain with a magic little pill, that pain must sometimes be accepted and tolerated so that the secondary effects – namely prescription drug addiction – aren’t introduced to the body. This isn’t, of course, meant to demonize all situations that may call for the prescription of painkillers. However, we only suggest further discretion, for a big picture view, for an understanding that maybe a sprained ankle doesn’t require Oxycontin, that maybe a minor tear or strain doesn’t always require Vicodin, that maybe even pain can be viewed in a positive light: it is a sign that you’re still alive and kicking and that things could be so much worse than they really are.
That’s a gift unto itself.