Clinical Focus: Pain and America’s Opioid Epidemic, Part 1


America is in the grips of an unprecedented opioid epidemic. This time, it’s not just about heroin, confined to the inner cities among impoverished minorities. It’s spread to suburbs and rural areas and is affecting predominantly white middle-class populations. It started when, under marketing pressure from makers of pain medications, doctors were encouraged to view pain as “the fifth vital sign,” on a par with blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature. But pain is subjective, and not amenable to such a simplistic formula. More people see doctors for pain than for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined! Along with liberal prescribing, the ubiquity of powerful, long-acting drugs, and more lenient sentencing of drug sellers have fostered a surge in drug overdoses. Moreover, we have created a huge underclass of addicted, hopeless, unemployable, debilitated Americans, who often succumb to suicide. Statistics show far too many people take more medication than is prescribed, stockpile or share medications, doctor-shop to obtain more prescriptions, mix drugs with alcohol, and continue use of medications for purposes other than pain relief. Unscrupulous doctors often sell prescriptions. We need a total reassessment of the way we treat pain in America. As a society, we have far too little tolerance for transient (physical and psychological) pain, and the medical profession and drug companies are all-too-wiling to oblige. Experts now call for a closer look at alternative modalities like yoga, meditation/mindfulness, Tai-Chi, QiGong, acupuncture, core-training, acupuncture, etc. Diet may play a role in curbing inflammation; certain supplements like fish oil, curcumin, boswellin, vitamin C and D, and magnesium may help pain. The revolutionary work of the late Dr. John Sarno, who urged patients to let go of stress that perpetuated their pain syndromes, also deserves consideration. Click HERE for part 2.


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