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CDC, New England Journal of Medicine Weigh in on Chronic Pain

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Chronic pain has been the subject of several recent sources of information, such as the proposed opioid guidelines released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and an article published in the November 26th edition New England Journal of Medicine stating that pain relief should not be the primary goal of doctors who treat those suffering from chronic pain. Instead, the article recommends that patients learn to accept their pain and move on with their lives.

If you are a chronic pain sufferer, particularly someone dealing with complex regional pain syndrome/reflex sympathetic dystrophy (CRPS/RSD), you may find several things wrong with this ideology, such as:

  • A large amount of research has shown that pain left untreated or under-treated affects the overall quality of life of the sufferer, and may even be slowly killing them in a variety of ways.
  • Chronic pain causes depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.
  • Much comorbidity accompanies chronic pain, including hormonal and metabolic imbalance, compromised immune function, skin rashes, ulcers, incontinence, and high blood pressure.
  • Unrelieved chronic pain can permanently change the brain and nervous system, preventing the brain from fully resting and developing new cells to repair brain damage.
  • Research has also shown that the brains of pain patients can deteriorate over the course of a year at the rate that would take a healthy person’s brain 10-20 years. Cerebral atrophy can cause seizures and dementia, both preventable in pain patients who are given adequate pain care.

Although opioid misuse is not epidemic in the U.S., not even falling within the top 20 causes of death, chronic pain may be considered pandemic. Chronic pain affects more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, or 25.3 million people in the U.S., according to Medical Daily.

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  1. Robert Atkinson says:
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    I have been officially disabled with idiopathic chronic pain since 2011, having struggled to maintain employment and health insurace since 2007. My quality of life is poor even when the pain is controled. When I read about pallative care it sounds like a cruel joke. What parrallel universe is this to be found? My pain specialist started reducing my meds before discussint it with me. Then he pawned me off on another physician that knows nothing about me, which didn’t even bother to ask how I was doing! I too have read the guidelines and what they say is enormously different than what is actually happening. They don’t address the needs of patients with disabling chronic pain, but we have been caught in the middle. The guidelines are intended for the family physician for instance, and place problem behavior as the priority. Neither of those conditions apply to me, but I am now forced to pay the price. Chronic pain results in serious depression and after so many years of illness, there just isn’t a reservoir of hopeful thinking to draw upon. There is little doubt that I will essentially forced into taking my own life as a result. Which to my present thinking, has made my physician the “executioner”. It makes the recent study showing that medical error is the 3rd largest killer in the US all the more believable. It is reminiscent of Reagan closing the mental health dept. and putting all those patients on the street. Not to surprisingly, a large portion of those ended up in prison. Estimates are that a third of inmates suffer from a mental disorder. This goes a long ways in explaining why the US imprisons more of its population than any other country in the WORLD. Its pretty clear that the cost of helping mental patients is much cheaper than putting them in prison, but not politically expedient. So now they are taking away the only tool available for millions of patients, using the CDC estimates of 14.7% and the US census, there is an estimated 4.7 million people with chronic pain. How much of that results in disability, I don’t know, but it does in my case. Now they think that they are going to prevent more accidental over-doses, but the reality is that they just empowered the illicit drug market. If a patient can’t find help from the doctor and chooses not to kill themselves, they are going to find relief where ever they can. So the drug wars will continue. The price of this policy falls, of course, on the vulverable patient that is already beaten down by illness. If the medical community wasn’t so fragmented and dysfunctional, perhaps I could find treatment other than opioids. With the political division in this country though, it appears destined to get worse. When my pain meds run out, that will be the end for me.

  2. up arrow

    […] Chronic pain has been the subject of several recent sources of information, such as the proposed opioid guidelines released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and an article published in the November 26th edition New England […] Injury Board […]

  3. up arrow

    […] Chronic pain has been the subject of several recent sources of information, such as the proposed opioid guidelines released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and an article published in the November 26th edition New England […] Injury Board […]