By R Carter
“This year’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health contains very encouraging news: The number of Americans misusing pain relievers dropped substantially, and fewer young adults are abusing heroin and other substances,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
While overall this is good news, showing that efforts to curb drug abuse in general and specifically opioid abuse are having an impact, the focus of Government remains on addressing the opioid crisis through restricting access to pain management for both acute and chronic pain.
“At the same time, many challenges remain, with millions of Americans not receiving treatment they need for substance abuse and mental illness. Connecting Americans to evidence-based treatment, grounded in the best science we have, is and will remain a priority for President Donald Trump, for HHS, and for SAMHSA under Assistant Secretary Elinore McCance-Katz”, said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
What is conspicuously absent from these efforts is the continued and ongoing absence of attention to the collateral damage these efforts are having on the 20 million Americans who are chronic pain patients and use opioids for managing that pain. Their hardships are not limited to daily unmanaged pain but extend to consequences of having unmangement pain. A recent survey conducted by Citizens for Ethical Reforms in Government and Medicine shows that 73.8% of chronic pain patients are no longer employable and 10.8% have been forced into lower paying jobs because of poorly managed chronic pain. 8.7% report an annual financial loss in excess of $90K per year, 5.3% report losses between $70-90K per year, 20.2% report loses between $50-70K per year, 25.5% report losses between $30-50K per year and 24% report losses between $10-30K per year. Of this group 86.6% report their pain as under treated and having a significant impact on the quality of life for them and their families.
70.3% report that their healthcare providers are less than honest with them all the time, underscoring the loss of trust which regulatory and law enforcement actions are having on the doctor-patient relationship. And while the national average for Americans utilizing Medicare Benefits is around 15%, 41.6% of those who have lost jobs and insurance coverage, report being forced into early retirement utilizing Medicare while another 12.8% have been forced into the Medicaid system.
Government’s hyperfocus on opioid abuse has blinded them to the collateral damage caused to a large segment of our population. Normally hard working Americans who hold down jobs and pay taxes, converting them from contributors of our economy to beneficiaries of our entitlement programs and no one in Government seems willing to address these issues in the coming election.