Opioid guidelines hinder treatment for those suffering from chronic pain.»
Katie Conlin says she is living “an existence of suffering.” Not because her pain is beyond the scope of management by modern day drugs, mind you, but because the powerful opioids that in the past brought her relief have been blacklisted.
In response to the nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse, the pendulum of prescribing these designer drugs appears to have swung too far in the other direction.
The Denver Post’s John Ingold talked to Conlin, others suffering and medical experts about an apparent unwillingness among doctors to prescribe opioids to treat chronic pain.
The reticence has come from new guidelines from both the state of Colorado and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We have been supportive of those guidelines. Undeniably there is an urgent need to get a handle on these destructive drugs that were once peddled as safe alternatives to other pain management tools or surgery.
In 1998 Purdue Pharma released a video featuring six people who suffered from chronic pain titled “I Got My Life Back.” Viewing the clip now can be a haunting experience, given that these days, some 16,000 people a year die from opioid overdoses.
Something needed to be done about the over-prescription of a drug that doctors had been treating cavalierly, given the risk for overdose and addiction.
Patients prescribed large amounts of these pain killers, even high school athletes healing from injuries or adults recovering from Policies intended to address opioid abuse have unexpectedly harmed patients who depend on the drugs to treat chronic conditions, pain specialists and patient advocates say. dental work, have suffered. Teens have overdosed from their parent’s pills. When the money runs out or doctor shopping fails, these individuals often turn to heroine.
The CDC says that in 2012 healthcare providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication, enough for every adult in the U.S. to have a bottle of pills.
Congress responded by demanding that warning labels be put on the drugs, and states and the CDC issued new advice to doctors.
So how do we balance these competing needs with public policy? Colorado’s rules take special care to note “the policy does not suggest the discontinuation of opioid therapy after a threshold is crossed. It does recommend the practitioner closely monitor the pain.”
But Ingold has clearly documented that for too many trying to manage their pain, something is not working. Doctors are unwilling under the new guidelines to write prescriptions for chronic pain.
While it’s still early, the Colorado death rate also hasn’t slowed much since the new rules were implemented: “in 2014, when the state’s guidelines first came out, the death rate from opioids was 6.1 people for every 100,000 residents. In 2015, the rate was 5.8, according to a report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.”
Guidelines need to be revisited by the medical experts who wrote them in the first place to uncover why the system is failing Conlin and others.