Moral Judgment Still Plays a Role in Prescribing Pain Meds

Few doctors still believe that pain is God's will and that treating it could be a sin, but morality and legality still play a major role in prescribing pain medication, Time magazine reported Feb. 24.

Up to 15 percent of Americans have chronic pain and presumably could benefit from pain medication, but the addictive reputation of opiate-based painkillers makes some doctors reluctant to prescribe the drugs. Other physicians worry about facing prosecution if they prescribe too many painkillers.

However, a review of recent research shows that less than one percent of chronic-pain patients with no past history of addiction became addicted to opiate-based pain medications. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, suggested that the study findings are not definitive, but estimated that the addiction rate is under 3 percent.

Other research found that the risk of overdosing on these drugs was 0.25 percent.

Experts say few chronic pain patients get the drugs they need, but Volkow cautioned: “There is both overprescribing and underprescribing.”

“More people are getting a very little bit of opioids, and that's good,” said Siobhan Reynolds, founder the Pain Relief Network. “But those who need high doses are still being put through hell. These drugs are a miracle for the right people: they're not good or bad; they're just what is.”

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