Balanced access to pain management

The issue

Opioids are a class of strong pain medication. While they may effectively manage moderate to severe pain, they do have addictive properties. Due to misinformation about the risk of addiction, a lack of accessible alternatives for pain relief, and other factors, opioid abuse and overdose have increased significantly in the last decade. In an effort to address the crisis, government officials and other policymakers have enacted reforms on how opioid medications are prescribed and dispensed.

The problem

While reform is absolutely necessary, some of the restrictions on opioids have unintentionally harmed legitimate patients who rely on opioids to manage their pain and use their medications appropriately. As a result, these individuals may be left with their pain undertreated or untreated. A failure to treat pain appropriately, however, leads not only to unnecessary physical suffering, but also increased disability, lost productivity, depression and anxiety, and even suicide.

Our position

In order to effectively address the opioid epidemic, we must enact balanced reforms that consider the needs of both patients with pain and patients with substance use disorder. Balanced reforms include things like increased access to alternative treatment options (including complementary and integrative medicine and medical cannabis); prescription monitoring programs; abuse-deterrent formularies; increasing public awareness about safe medication disposal; better understanding of risk factors and appropriate screening for substance use disorder; and so on. Read our full position statement.