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Flawed Miracles: The Opiate Painkiller

Essay by   •  June 6, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  4,533 Words (19 Pages)  •  1,209 Views

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Flawed Miracles: The Opiate Painkiller

Paul, a 23-year-old male classified as from a low-income bracket of society, suffers chronic lower back pain from an accident occurring at his workplace. The pain from his injury has kept him from functioning properly and this almost lost him his job. His doctor prescribed a minimal regime of opiates, believing it was in the best interest of Paul's safety. After a week of home stay, Paul called his doctor requesting an increase in his opiate prescription because his pain was intolerable. The doctor refused, believing the prescription was adequate. Paul, being legitimately unable to cope with the pain, experimented by taking higher doses of his medication. This seemed to work. On a follow up visit, it was noted that Paul was going through his medication faster than he should have. The doctor, alarmed, refused to prescribe narcotics to his patient any longer. Paul left distressed, panicked, and in pain.

Pain is the most common reason why patients visit their doctors, and yet many are going

without the necessary treatment that they need. Doctors often heavily criticize and outright deny their patients an aggressive pain treatment program. Instead, they under-medicate them out of fear of federal prosecution or other ignorance. These patients, honestly requiring greater amounts of the drug, either must endure the needless pain or, by making their needs known, risk being misinterpreted, denied outright, and labeled as a potential addict. That is the opposite of what doctors are meant to bring to society. In the midst of difficulties, it remains a doctor's

responsibility and obligation to provide their patients with an adequate pain management

program. The current practice of investigation and victimization is unacceptable.

Philosophically, medical practitioners agree that people should be properly treated and

medicated for pain. They also believe that people who abuse medication should be closely

monitored if not denied medication altogether. Doctors even know that opiates are generally safe

for treating pain. This in practice has proven extremely difficult because today's prescription

drug climate is fertile and dangerous. Painkiller abuse is on the rise and statistics are stunning:

roughly 11 million Americans abused an opioid medication in 2002 and numbers continue to rise

(Compton and Volkaw 103; Goodnough). Opiates are a double-edged sword requiring active and

insightful prescribing.

Addiction begins when patients react to narcotic tolerance negatively in conjunction with

ineffective physician monitoring. Compounding the issue, effective narcotic monitoring requires

training and structural formalities that are currently not established. Albeit only recently, these

issues are being addressed and solutions are maturing.

Even if the individual patient is properly cared for, narcotics are subtly and progressively

damaging neighborhoods and communities. Causing this are malignant doctors distributing

reconsider and re-rationalize their misplaced fears of narcotic addiction and abuse. Society must

also accept stricter regulatory mandates and accept responsibility regarding the role they play in

the drug wars. This will allow doctors to re-integrate opiates into a progressive, informed,

individualized and comprehensive pain management program. Only then can those suffering

begin their true healing journey.

Opiates were once legal and flourished. Their ability to numb pain was indispensable, yet

they often left the patient nonfunctioning for the duration of their onset. Then Dame Cicely

Saunders, inventor of the hospice movement for the care of terminally ill, discovered in her

career that opium was not only a means of putting patients into an unconscious state but,

utilizing low dosages, could provide significant pain relief while leaving the patient thinking

clearly (Wall, 112) This breakthrough discovery revolutionized how opiates were used.

Opiates became the preferred pain reliever of choice. Despite initial cognitive test score

declines after the first seven days of dose escalation, further studies found that people maintained

or improved functioning on stable low dosages (Ballantyne and Mao 1944; Bloodworth, S46).

This enabled patients to return to a lifestyle less debilitating than it once was.

Inevitably, opium's powerful dark side led to the misuse of the drug. The government

discovered rampant abuse and began to over-zealously regulate it without much consideration for

legitimate needs and usages of opiates. Doctors became keenly aware that the slightest mistake

in prescribing opiates possessed a high possibility of costing them their license to practice

medicine. Many feared the federally prosecution and public branding that resulted from a mere

accident and therefore choose less effective methods of treating pain. Even practitioner insurance

did not adequately protect them from patients abusing the drugs they prescribed (Ballantyne and

Mao 1943; Hill 288). Their fear was a justified reaction against government boards and agencies'

reconsider and re-rationalize their misplaced fears of narcotic addiction and abuse. Society must

also accept stricter regulatory mandates and accept responsibility regarding the role they play in

the drug wars. This will allow doctors to re-integrate opiates into a progressive, informed,

individualized

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