March 2013 Archives

The liberal use of opioids for the treatment of chronic pain is a topic of intense
focus and debate. It was a recent topic on CNN due to the growing number of orphaned
children resulting from parental opioid-related deaths.

America now consumes 80% of the global opioid supply, though only contains 4.6%
of the world’s population. Over the last two decades, there has been liberalization
of the laws regarding opioid prescribing and a greater societal demand for better
pain control. This, combined with aggressive opioid marketing by pharmaceutical
companies, has resulted in spiraling increased use of opioid pain killers, though
there remains minimal scientific evidence of their effectiveness in the treatment
of chronic non-cancer pain.

Presently, there are more than 86,000 orphaned children in Kentucky, resulting from
parental complications fom prescription drug use. The national number of children
orphaned after parental overdoses is difficult to assess however there is a death
from prescription drug-related overdose every 19 minutes, with most of these prescriptions
being opioids. The epidemic affects every state, with Florida being one of the most

Undoubtedly there is a role for opioids in pain management, but the use must be
judicious and guided by a physician skilled in a more comprehensive, integrated
approach to pain management.  The integrated approach would certainly decrease reliance
on opioid medication, as discussed in Gary Saff M.D.’s article addressing the crisis

A greater focus on health care provider education and a broader public awareness,
such as in the below CNN link, will hopefully take the heartbreak out of the opioid