Doctors unfairly blamed for opioid crisis

The opioid crisis is a complex issue and suggested solutions many. However, I take issue with the amount of blame/responsibility directed at physicians. A common solution suggested is to direct patients in pain to alternative treatments. The problem is that there are often no viable alternatives. Patients have already tried Tylenol and Ibuprofen before I see them. Acupuncture is effective, but often not covered by insurance. 

What is left? The only other official recommendation I have seen is yoga. So when a patient in acute pain comes in unable to get out of bed after wrenching his back, I am supposed to say “Sign up for a yoga class?” I don’t think so.

Faced with suffering, it is very difficult to withhold a medication that will ease pain. I agree we must be cautious with duration and the amount of pills given. I agree that discussion of abuse risk is important to have. But I must emphasize that the vast majority of patients do not become addicts. Should the majority suffer to protect the few?

It is easy to sit in your armchair and smugly blame doctors. It is harder to look a suffering patient in the eye and deny them relief. Before you push me to use alternative interventions, please provide me with one that actually helps! 

Dr. Steven P. Johnson

New London

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