Typically when government gets involved, they manage to muck things up and make things worse. That’s certainly been the case with the tragic rise of opioid abuse, addiction, and deaths that are plaguing our country.
Always going for an easy solution — and a sound bite that will play to voters — government officials have spun a narrative where pharmaceutical companies and doctors have turned average, every-day patients into addicts.
So to combat this, the government has established new policies, putting in strict rules about what doctors can prescribe when it comes to pain management.
Here’s the problem… among genuine pain sufferers — people recovering from a surgery or living with a chronic pain condition — only one percent become addicted to painkillers.
The vast majority of pain-pill addicts aren’t patients. They know patients who are using painkillers. And they often steal pills from those people.
As government agencies have stepped in to try to stop this misuse of pain pills from happening, three unintended consequences have cropped up.
First, people living in actual pain have been cut off from the medications they rely on to function. And when that happens suicides among this group go up.
Second, the real addicts — usually not patients — turn to harder drugs to get their high. This has resulted in a rise in heroin addiction.
Third, doctors and actual pain sufferers get turned into criminals, needlessly.
So, through government policies, people who need painkillers for legitimate reasons are suffering more and pain-pill abusers are turning to street drugs at an alarming rate.
Better policy options exist. Policies that won’t criminalize doctors, won’t drive people living in pain into despair, and that will even help those who become addicted to recover and get back to living normal lives.
But these policies are complicated. And they don’t play to the public as well.
What’s the moral of this story? First, don’t trust politicians or government bureaucrats (but you already knew that). And second, if you have a loved one who is suffering from chronic pain or pain related to surgical recovery, start looking for alternatives to prescription opioids. Chances are they won’t be able to get the relief they need through that channel for much longer.