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Prescription Opioid Overdoses: THE TRUTH

opioid pain medication

By Kev James – Volunteer Community Worker – Chronic Pain Patient & Medical Cannabis Advocate.

The prescription “opioid crisis” response in America, triggered by their Centre for Disease Control, has clearly harmed the chronic pain patient population (forced tapers, suicides etc), and we certainly don’t want this flawed approach coming to Australian shores! American authorities & policymakers have finally realised their error and are now trying to reverse some of the harm done. In fact, the authors of CDC guidelines acknowledge they’ve been misapplied and even admitted “we know little about the benefits and harms of reducing high dosages of opioids in patients who are physically dependent on them.”

In Australia we have not caught up with this false & harmful “prescription opioids are to blame for overdoses” narrative in America, or updated our stance. WHY NOT? Here is yet another media article demonising prescription opioids, this time from Monash Uni [2019], ranting about the ‘opioid crisis’ coming to Australian shores.

America’s opioid epidemic is starting to hit Australia’ shores


ANSWER: The issue is this recent Australian article is still quoting the over inflated & fudged figures (now proven to be ‘estimations’ or outright lies!) from the dubious 2016 American CDC ‘Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids’, quote as follows: “In 2016, more than 63,000 people in America died from drug overdoses – more than 42,000 of those involved prescription or illicit opioids.”

Furthermore, once again the media use a stock image of a pharmaceutical pill bottle to propagate the myth legal pain prescriptions and/or opioid pain killers are the problem. Up until now I had thought Monash Uni were reputed to be one of Australia’s leading pain research Universities in Australia, who were open to the truth etc. Unfortunately, as Mark Twain once said: ‘There are lies, damned lies & then there are statistics!’


The truth is that the American 2016 prescription opioid overdose statistics were over-exaggerated (i.e. by at least 50%, or perhaps even more).

”How inflated were the overdose numbers? Using the agency’s “traditional definition” for prescription opioids, the CDC estimated that 32,445 Americans died from overdoses of pain medication in 2016.

Under a new “conservative definition” – one that excludes the “high proportion of deaths” involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl – the death toll from prescription opioids is cut nearly in half to 17,087 overdoses.

The researchers note that even that estimate is likely wrong for a variety of reasons:

  • The number of deaths involving diverted prescriptions or counterfeit drugs is unknown
  • Toxicology tests cannot distinguish between pharmaceutical fentanyl and illicit fentanyl
  • Drugs are not identified on death certificates in 20% of overdose deaths
  • Multiple drugs are involved in almost half of drug overdose deaths.”


When will the authorities in Australia realise that “opioid hysteria” or restricting Schedule 8 pain medications has the very real potential of taking legally obtained prescription opioids away from vulnerable chronic pain patients who are in need of them the most? Surely it is obvious this simply creates a massive epidemic of undertreated chronic pain?

Reproduced with permission. Original article published here:

Kevin R James
Author: Kevin R James

Chronic Pan Patient Advocate and Writer. Medically Retired RN [B.Nurs.]

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