How Chronic Pain Sufferers Fall Victim to the Opioid Crisis
In a recent article from Philly.com entitled “The other opioid epidemic: chronic pain patients in need of care“, author Ira Cantor (Ira Cantor, M.D. is an internal medicine physician) discusses the lack of attention of how people living with chronic pain are losing access to the medicine they need. Without this medicine, they are unnecessarily living in more pain and experiencing terrible deterioration of their quality of life. Moreover, this detrimental side-effect of the opioid epidemic has become more of a “recommendation” and less a “regulation. by physicians”
According to Dr. Cantor, he states “Listen to a real patient I recently saw. At 55, he has suffered from severe, but well controlled pain for 10 years. He told me he was relatively okay, until his doctor told him “that there were new regulations, that my pain medications had to be cut down.” He was taking them as prescribed, without abuse or side effects. They enabled him to live his life and enjoy his family, though he couldn’t work. With his medicine decreased, his pain increased, he was mostly homebound and needed a cane. Then it got worse. He told me, “I was shocked, and scared when my doctor said I had to find a new doctor; he wouldn’t prescribe pain medicines any more.”
In fact, a survey taken in 2017 shows about (2/3) two-thirds of primary care physicians had cut back on prescribing and to add insult to injury, finding new physicians is becoming increasingly difficult for chronic pain patients. According to Cantor, “Many pain physicians don’t participate in insurance plans.”
Cantor also goes on to say: “Here’s what I usually tell my patients (after a comprehensive history and exam, toxicology studies, reviewing questionnaires and databases which alert me to misuse): “There was no good medical reason to taper your medications. They were helpful and weren’t abused. There aren’t new regulations, rather recommendations about not using higher levels of opioid medications unless there is a compelling reason. Chronic severe pain, and deterioration of quality of life, are significant compelling reasons, if the medicines help decrease your pain, and if no other treatments can accomplish this.”
In Conclusion, as the opioid epidemic continues to be in the spotlight, it’s imperative that the public understands both the incredible potential and harm opioids provide. Based on the story by Dr. Cantor as well as everything we have been hearing in the news, both Physicians and the patients themselves are caught in the middle of a complicated crossfire. However, as stated by Dr. Cantor, “physicians owe it to their patients – and to fulfilling medical vows – to help those who suffer.”
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Ciara Levine – Clinical Director (Psychiatric Nurse, MSN, RN, PMHCNS)
Ciara is our Intake Coordinator/Mental Health Professional that offers an atmosphere of support so that together we can work to alleviate distress and make lasting changes. We will have the opportunity to make positive and healthy improvements to your life. My professional and personal journey have led me to be compassionate, direct and goal oriented with my clients. My approach is interactive, utilizing the theories of cognitive behavioral therapy and family systems therapy.
As a registered nurse for 22 years and an advanced practice psychiatric mental health nurse for 18 years, I have had the opportunity of helping countless individuals achieve behavioral changes that have resulted in lasting improvements in their lives.