Viewpoint: Physicians should no longer use opioids as 'simple solution' to pain

The previously accepted notion of using opioids to completely eradicate pain has caused U.S. physicians to prescribe 50 times more opioids than the rest of the world combined, Heather Tick, MD, clinical associate professor in both the departments of family medicine and anesthesiology and pain medicine at Seattle-based UW Medicine, and Jane Ballantyne, MD, a pain medicine physician in Seattle, wrote in an op-ed for The Seattle Times.

Here are the four things to know:

1. Patients and physicians have both grown accustomed to treating pain with fast-acting drugs, according to Drs. Tick and Ballantyne.

"The business model of medicine encourages simple solutions to complex problems, and by all indications this approach is not helping patients," they wrote in the op-ed.

2. However, opioids do not serve as an ideal treatment for chronic pain, as they become less effective and require ever-increasing doses to satisfy patients' pain. In addition, the vast majority of prescribed drugs often produce side effects, which are then treated with more drugs. This cycle begins to feel like a game of Whac-A-Mole, the authors wrote.

3. Drs. Tick and Ballantyne refer to opioid overuse and poorly treated pain as twinned problems. They believe improving pain treatment requires a transformation in management strategies that encourage patients to take more ownership over their pain and treatment.

4. They concluded the healthcare industry must replace traditional opioid treatments with nanopharmaceutical solutions to better ensure patients' long-term health.

More articles on opioids: 

Viewpoint: Federal opioid response must address childhood trauma
Cryptomarket opioid sales increased after DEA tightened prescribing regulations
Study: New York physicians received $3.5M from opioid makers between 2013-15

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