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The Real “Opioid Crisis”​ is Untreated Pain

opioid pain medications

The above Article states: “Last year, U.S. overdose deaths soared to a record of 107,000, driven overwhelmingly by fentanyl and other illegal opioids.” The biggest problem in America is illicit fentanyl from China, entering via the Mexican border, which comprises up to 80% of their “opioid” overdoses. Sadly, many deaths were chronic pain patients, who have had to source pain relief by any means necessary, since being force-tapered & abandoned.

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? Collateral damage & deaths in the chronic pain patient population are directly due to harsh Opioid Prescribing Guidelines released by their Federal CDC in 2016. Yet recent statistics in America indicate, despite reductions of “40-60% in legally prescribed opioids in recent years, overdoses have skyrocketed to 107,000 in 2021. Their misdirected approach in targeting prescription opioids has significantly harmed responsible chronic pain patients, using their painkillers as prescribed, & has led to a situation whereby life-saving & mobility-restoring opioids have been ceased, often without any tapering protocols or medical supports in place.

While we do not have the same issue with illicit fentanyl in Australia, our Federal Authorities should note America’s failed “solution”, & be careful NOT to limit, reduce or restrict access to legal opioid painkillers ACROSS THE BOARD, as this will only harm chronic pain patients, caught in a counter-productive, knee jerk or political witch hunt.

WHY? Because legally prescribed pharmaceutical opioids are not the main driver of any perceived “opioid crisis”. In fact, it would be far more accurate to say the real issue in Australia is POLYPHARMACY, usually due to a combination of drugs, such as alcohol, benzos and opioids, rather than opioids ALONE. IF the 2021 Annual Overdose Report, released by the Penington Institute [using ABS data from 2019] is examined carefully, it is crystal clear “there were 460 deaths related to prescription opioids” only in Australia [REF supplied upon request].

Hardly a National Crisis warranting the same drastic “anti-opioid” measures as in America?

WHEN [not IF] new Opioid Deprescribing of Opioids Guidelines are approved in Australia, all this will simply lead to is a preventable “crisis” of untreated pain, in one of the most stigmatised cohorts in society, i.e. chronic patients using their opioids effectively & safely to engage in exercise & activities of living, as just ONE part of an overall pain management program.

In this context, WHY is the Australian Commission on Safety & Quality in Health [ACSQH] celebrating “a 30% reduction in the overall volume of opioid medicines dispensed nationally” in 2020-21? [SEE BELOW LINK]

In light of the misdirected American crackdown on legally prescribed opioids, how is a “30% reduction” in any way a positive outcome in Australia? Punishing pain patients by taking away their much-needed & mobility restoring opioid painkillers is NOT the solution for any misunderstood “opioid crisis”, & will only lead to an epidemic of untreated pain IMHO.

Kevin R James
Author: Kevin R James

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

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