Pain Patients are the Casualties of the War on Drugs: Drs. Singer and Bloom in The Philadelphia Inquirer

Cato Institute's Dr. Jeffrey A. Singer, also an ACSH advisor, and Dr. Josh Bloom argue in The Philadelphia Inquirer that the unwinnable war on drugs is simply a losing proposition for pain patients.

“There are almost no chronic conditions I can think of where you look at medical maintenance and say, ‘When are you going to get off it?’ We don’t ask diabetic patients when they’re going to get off their insulin. We reevaluate the need for those medicines at regular intervals and employ every tool we have to treat the underlying causes.”

So said Alicia Agnoli, University of California, Davis researcher and lead author of a recent study in JAMA, to Aubrey Whelan, whose report on the study for The Inquirer challenged the dogma of opioid denial as a means to control overdoses and deaths and examined the consequences of this denial on pain patients whose medications have been tapered, often forcibly.

It has been becoming clear for years that all attempts to control overdoses by reining in opioid supply and prescriptions have been abject failures. The government’s own data, collected from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, show no association between the volume of opioid prescriptions and the nonmedical use or addiction in persons over age 12.

Although the reduction in opioid prescriptions has had no impact on the overdose deaths from medically used opioids, the same cannot be said for opioids as a whole. It is now widely accepted that as the supply of relatively safe prescription drugs was slashed, both users and abusers have turned to heroin and, more recently, fentanyl, which is responsible for 87% of the 30,000 spike in drug overdose deaths in 2020. (Cocaine is responsible for the rest.)

# This excerpt is reprinted with permission. The entire opinion piece can be found here