Opioid addiction has become so widespread that the government has been forced to take action, enacting regulations that affect both doctors and patients. The goal is to ensure those prone to addiction don’t have access to these highly addictive substances, but new laws may be taking things a step too far. Today, those regulations may force the more than 100 million chronic pain patients to suffer without relief.
Anne Dubosky, a Washington state physician, says the laws are targeting patients, who don’t have a propensity for addiction. In fact, she says those who suffer from chronic pain are not the ones dying from opioid overdoses. Even so, those patients may be the ones forced to give up the only medications that can help them live a bearable quality of life.
This concern has led to many chronic pain patients lobbying for better regulations. For instance, Don’t Punish Pain is a group organized by 64-year-old Martha Mioni and is set to engage in a public protest against opioid legislation. Ms. Mioni organized the protest group out of a concern that her opioid prescription, which has already been reduced, may be taken away altogether. She says she’ll be confined to a bed if her dose is lowered by much more.
The pressure on doctors to lower doses is coming from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which recently published revised guidelines. The new regulations are meant to restrict doctors from serving as pill mills and to keep opioids out of the hands of addicts. The CDC guidelines only recommend that doctors limit each patient to a daily dose of 90 morphine mg equivalents, but many physicians are adopting the suggestion as a hard rule.
Instead of receiving the doses they need, patients are being pushed to seek alternative methods for managing pain. While these methods may work for less severe pain, they often prove ineffective in managing chronic pain, which may be caused by fibromyalgia and other long-term conditions. Dr. Dubosky says many physicians, including herself, feel that these regulations inhibit their ability to treat patients effectively.
Dr. Dubosky adds that she doesn’t disagree with the need for more efficient oversight, but adds that patients with a real need shouldn’t be punished. Instead, she would like to see away to identify and discipline those doctors, who may be operating pill mills. She feels there must be a better way to curb the opioid epidemic, rather than deny medication to the chronic pain patients, who need it the most.