Opioids Stigma Hurts the People Who Actually Need Them

Prescription drug policies are designed to curb overdose deaths, but at the same time they could be hurting patients who really need the medications.

Prescription drug policies are designed to curb overdose deaths, but at the same time they could be hurting patients who really need the medications.

More than 14,000 people died from prescription drug overdoses in 2014 in the United States alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lawmakers continue to analyze and update policies in order to lower this number. The concern with that, however, is that it will take access away from patients who are legitimately living with chronic pain.

“There is a disturbing tendency among doctors, politicians, and the media in the US to be preoccupied by certain aspects of opioids: their benefits are questioned and their risks sensationalized,” Co-author Willem Scholten, PharmD, MPA, a medicine and controlled substances consultant in the Netherlands, said in a news release.

  • Related: State Opioid Laws Have Been Close to Useless for Disabled Adults

In an analysis published in the Journal of Pain & Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy, researchers make recommendations for responsible prescribing. Among those recommendations are pieces of the guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Office of Drug Control (UNODC), including regularly:

  • Assessing a patient’s pain and function
  • Informing the patient and caregiver about prescription directions
  • Reminding patient of safe disposal of unused medications

Whenever prescription drugs are making headlines, most of the time it’s for something negative which then puts on emphasis on the need for more laws. However, people rarely think of the dangers that those policies can actually cause.

“Blocking access to prescription opioids should not have a negative impact on pain treatment or worsen overall harmful substance use,” Scholten said.

The authors stressed that they aren’t suggesting that there shouldn’t be opioid policies, but that there needs to be a rational way to implement them so that the patients who need the prescription drugs get them.

This analysis is helping turn the opioid conversation in a different direction.

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