Guest Post: Barby Ingle on Chronic Pain and Opioids
By Barby Ingle, President
Power of Pain Foundation
Imagine going from living an active life, where dance was a central part of your life, to living in pain that limits your every move. It happened to me. As head of Washington State University’s cheer and dance programs, physical fitness was a central and wonderful part of my life. That changed in 2002 when I was diagnosed with a painful autoimmune disease that ended my ability to coach. Pain like that isn’t just physically limiting – it is morally debilitating. Add to that the injury of being told you may not be able to access the pain medication you need because a physician worries that you may be abusing the medication. It is a problem faced by many who have legitimate need for pain medication. Instead of being treated with compassion, pain patients are too often treated with suspicion.
Prescription pain medications are an important component of modern pain management. Abuse and misuse of these products, however, have created a serious and growing public health problem. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has worked to address this problem while ensuring patients who are in pain have appropriate access to opioid analgesics.
The question, however, is how we can make pain medication available to those who need it and address the legitimate concerns of physicians and law enforcement about misuse. Fortunately, there is good news. One important step towards the goal of creating safer pain medication has been the development of opioids formulated to deter abuse. The FDA considers the development of these products a high public health priority. For patients with pain, help comes in the form of three letters: ADF.
Pain medications with abuse deterrent formulation (ADF) make it difficult to tamper with the pills, reducing the risk they will be used improperly. The good news is that several formulations of ADF now exist, giving physicians a range of options for their patients with pain. Some ADF formulations simply make it hard to crush the pills. Others contain an antidote that destroys the medicine if crushed. A variety of solutions means better options for care. It is time to fulfill the promise of these new treatments. As a leader in the pain community and someone who advocates for thousands of pain patients each year, I strongly believe that we can combat the issues of abuse while still giving patients who need pain relief a safe, effective and accountable access to these medications.
With many new medications, insurers put limits that make it difficult to access the medicines. With the societal cost of limiting pain management so high, such an approach is penny wise and pound foolish. There are many things we can do to increase access to these treatments, but we need to start with the recognition of their value and the promise they hold for many pain patients who have been denied care due to suspicion. We must find a balance between the pain patients who truly need opioid medication for daily living and those who are abusing them. There is a need to stem the tide of drug abuse, but not at the detriment to those who need proper and timely care and access to tools for better daily living so they may function in a more productive way in our communities and provide greater benefit to society as a whole. The responsible patients should not be punished by the crackdown on prescription drugs and opioid abuse.
Barby Ingle is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and President of the board for the Power of Pain Foundation. Barby is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics. She has been a pain patient since developing endometriosis in 1997, and reflex sympathetic dystrophy in 2002.