The Puzzle of Pain
Dr. Mary Lynch, like Dr. Webster, understands that opioids aren’t the first line of treatment. Dr, Lynch only turns to opioids once the level of pain is intolerable, or the quality of life is compromised. In her experience, the chances of a patient developing a long-term addiction to opioids are quite low. She believes that opioids do not create the addict and that the medical use of opioids is not what leads to addiction.
“People don’t want to see the complexity of addiction. Addiction is a complex problem that requires addressing risk factors … It’s easy to fool yourself to think that stricter regulation of doctors prescribing is going to solve the problem. It’s not.”
Dr. Lynch strongly believes that legislation regulating doctors to prescribe fewer opioids will only harm those using opioids appropriately for medical reasons. Those with a legitimate medical need for opioids that are using them appropriately under the care of their physician are getting less access to them as their physicians are frightened to prescribe them. We even have physicians that won’t prescribe opioids at all because they are afraid of having their licenses taken away.
Patients that cannot gain access to effective medications that they have taken in the past are falling into depression and in some cases committing suicide. This has also pushed people to obtain illicit drugs illegally which can easily cause an overdose and in many cases death. Dr. Lynch notes that “when people are pushed to purchase drugs on the street it often results in a lot of collateral damage.”
There is a stigma surrounding the treatment of pain using opioids. This socio-political agenda denies medical evidence which makes it nearly impossible for those in chronic pain to get the treatment they need.
When asked how can we improve the current system her response was two-fold. We need a national pain strategy that will educate healthcare professionals and the general public so that we have a “fleet” of well-educated healthcare professionals. We also need more open access to tertiary pain clinics for more complex, chronic pain.