Drs. Jeffrey Singer and Josh Bloom just published an op-ed in the Philidelphia Inquirer about the pointless and inhumane treatment that pain patients must endure in the name of fighting the "opioid epidemic." Except it's nothing of the sort. We are having a "street drug epidemic." This is why people are dying, not from prescription analgesics.
With all eyes focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy to lose sight of the other epidemic, one that claimed an estimated 76,000 lives during the 12 months ending this past April: drug overdoses. Opioid-related overdoses were responsible for more than 50,000 of a total of 71,327 drug-overdose deaths in 2019 and will exceed that number in 2020. There is strong evidence that the stress and isolation of the pandemic and its stay-at-home orders are exacerbating the problem.
One group endures particular suffering during these difficult times: pain patients. On top of the physical and psychological harm that is plaguing the rest of us, pain patients, many of whom are already isolated because of debilitating disease, must also cope with lack of access to multi-modal pain therapeutics and, especially, critical pain medications exacerbated by shelter-in-place orders and restrictions on nonemergency medical services. The combination of the two is well beyond inhumane.
There is now indisputable evidence showing the absence of any correlation between the number of opioid prescriptions and opioid abuse and addiction. Yet policymakers and legislators persist in tightening controls over the production and prescribing of opioids. They also appear oblivious to the fact that prescription painkillers have for years been involved in an ever-decreasing share of overdose deaths.
# Reprinted with permission from the Philadelphia Inquirer. The entire op-ed can be found here.