Pain isn’t just physical—why many are using painkillers for emotional relief

Australians are increasingly using prescription or over-the-counter painkillers to ease emotional, rather than physical, pain. Our cultural understanding of pain is changing, and as a result it’s becoming more difficult to distinguish intoxication from relief.

In my recently published book A Fine Line: Painkillers and Pleasure in the Age of Anxiety, interviewees who used painkillers non-medically said they did so mainly to ease forms of suffering they acknowledge may not be medically defined as pain. Yet they experienced them as “painful”.

The US is currently going through what many term an “opioid epidemic”, while more than 1,000 Australians died of an opioid overdose in 2016, with 76% of these deaths related to prescription opioids. Recently, the ABC reported that the high-dose opioid patch fentanyl has fuelled an opioid dependence crisis in regional Australia.

Full story at Medical Xpress

Racial disparities in prescribing opioids for chronic pain

Yale researchers have identified racial disparities in the treatment of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain. Black patients who receive opioids long-term are more likely than whites to be tested for illicit drug use. Of those who test positive, blacks are more likely to have their opioid prescriptions discontinued, said the researchers.

More than 40% of opioid overdose deaths in the United States are attributed to prescription opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin and Percocet. Efforts to curb the crisis have focused in part on limiting opioid overprescribing. Less attention has been paid to how providers monitor and treat patients once opioids are initiated.

The Yale-led research team analyzed data from the electronic health records of more than 15,000 patients who received opioids from the Veterans Administration between 2000 and 2010. The researchers reviewed whether patients were screened for illicit drug use after starting opioids, which is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also looked at whether opioids were discontinued in those who tested positive for either marijuana or cocaine.

Full story at Science Daily

Scientists Developing New Painkillers With Fewer Side Effects

Scientists are working with three compounds that show promise in treating pain, without the side effects of opioids, CNBC reports.

One experimental drug, oliceridine, is in the final stages of human trials. It is administered intravenously. Studies show the drug relieves pain like morphine, without causing respiratory depression or constipation. However, it is no less addictive than morphine and it can only be used in hospitals. The company that makes oliceridine, Trevana, is developing an oral form of the drug.

Full story of new painkillers without side effects at drugfree.org

Senate Bill Would Require Doctors to Use Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

Three U.S. senators have introduced a bill that would require doctors to use prescription drug monitoring programs before they prescribe painkillers. The Prescription Drug Monitoring Act is co-sponsored by Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Angus King of Maine.

Minnesota is one of the states in which doctors’ participation in prescription drug monitoring is voluntary. At a news conference Tuesday, Klobuchar said if such programs are not mandatory, some doctors who excessively prescribe opioids can go undetected, theStar Tribune reported.

Full story of Senate bill for doctors to use prescription drug monitoring programs at drugfree.org

Some Doctors and Medical Groups Oppose State Limits on Opioid Prescribing

Some doctors are voicing their opposition to new state laws that limit opioid prescribing. The American Medical Association (AMA) and other medical groups say doctors and patients should be able to balance the need to treat pain against the risk of addiction, Stateline reports.

Dozens of states have enacted measures designed to reduce the amount of painkillers prescribed each year. Five states have set limits on the number of pills a doctor can prescribe to a patient for the first time, while 29 states increased monitoring of filled prescriptions to prevent patients from “doctor shopping” for more painkillers.

“Arbitrary pill limits or dosage limits are not the way to go,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, Chairwoman of AMA’s Committee on Opioid Abuse. “They are one-size-fits-all, blunt approaches.”

Full story of opposing state limits on opioid prescribing at drugfree.org