The Opioid Overdose Crisis
- Addictive Properties of Various Drugs
- Estimated Annual Causes of Death in the US
- Diversion of Prescription Drugs
- Drug Use Prevalence
- Heroin-Assisted Treatment
- Methadone and Opioid Substitution Treatment
- Pain Management and Prescription Drugs
- Recovery, Rehabilitation, and Social Reintegration
- Supervised Consumption Facilities
- Syringe Service Programs
- Treatment for Substance Use Disorders
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Page last updated June 10, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.
31. Using Opioids for Treatment of Acute Pain
"Mild to moderate acute pain is often relieved by physical interventions—such as the application of ice, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), massage or stretching, and/or bracing—along with a mild analgesic such as an NSAID or acetaminophen. More severe pain often requires opioid therapy, which will be discussed in depth below. When appropriately skilled clinicians are available in a system that is comfortable supporting such treatments, nerve blocks or spinal infusions can sometimes control more severe acute pain. Examples of common acute pain procedures are rib blocks for rib fractures or thoracic incisions; epidural infusions for thoracic, abdominal, or lower body surgery or trauma; and brachial plexus infusions for upper extremity postsurgical or trauma-related pain.
Savage, Seddon R., Kenneth L. Kirsh, and Steven D. Passik. "Challenges in Using Opioids to Treat Pain in Persons With Substance Use Disorders." Addiction Science & Clinical Practice 4.2 (2008): 4–25.
32. Tighter Prescribing Regulations Drive Illegal Sales
"The US Drug Enforcement Administration introduced a schedule change for hydrocodone combination products in October 2014. During the period of our study, October 2013 to July 2016, the percentage of total drug sales represented by prescription opioids in the US doubled from 6.7% to 13.7%, which corresponds to a yearly increase of 4 percentage points in market share. It is not possible to determine the location of buyers from cryptomarket data. We cannot know, for example, if a drug shipped from a vendor in Europe was purchased by a US customer. Nevertheless, cryptomarket users often prefer buying and selling from vendors in the same country; international shipments carry risks of loss, interception by officials, and increased delivery times. A study of cryptomarkets in Australia found that local vendors were often preferred over international counterparts, despite substantially higher prices.24 Another study36 also noted the downward trends of international sales and therefore an increase in domestic sales, and yet another study47 found that drug trading through cryptomarket is heavily constrained by offline geography. This preference for domestic trading, combined with the relatively large numbers of US drug vendors trading in cryptomarkets, leads us to presume that most sales of prescription drugs by US vendors will be sold to customers based in the US. Conversely, most transactions generated by non-US vendors will not be sold to US customers.
"The results of our interrupted time series suggest the possibility of a causal relation between the schedule change and the percentage of sales represented by prescription opioids on cryptomarkets. Our analysis cannot rule out other possible causal explanatory factors, but our results are consistent with the possibility that the schedule change might have directly contributed to the changes we observed in the supply of illicit opioids. This possibility is reinforced by the fact that the increased availability and sales of prescription opioids on cryptomarkets in the US after the schedule change was not replicated for cryptomarkets elsewhere.
"Our results are consistent with the possibility of demand led increases. The first increase observed for prescription opioids was for actual sales (fig 1); with increases for active listings, and then all listings, following. One explanation is that cryptomarket vendors perceived an increase in demand and responded by placing more listings for prescription opioids and thereby increasing supply. Our results are also consistent with the iron law of prohibition34 insofar as we identified the largest sales increases for more potent prescription opioids—specifically, oxycodone and fentanyl. Cryptomarkets may function as a supply gateway48: customers who initially sought out illicit hydrocodone on cryptomarkets after the schedule change might then have favoured more potent opioids available on the marketplace."
Martin James, Cunliffe Jack, Décary-Hétu David, Aldridge Judith. Effect of restricting the legal supply of prescription opioids on buying through online illicit marketplaces: interrupted time series analysis. British Medical Journal. 2018; 361:k2270.
33. Barriers to Effective Pain Care
"A number of barriers to effective pain care involve the attitudes and training of the providers of care. First, health professionals may hold negative attitudes toward people reporting pain and may regard pain as not worth their serious attention. As discussed in detail in Chapter 2, patients can be at a particular disadvantage if they are members of racial or ethnic minorities, female, children, or infirm elderly. They also may have less access to care if they are perceived as drug seeking or if they have, or are perceived to have, mental health problems. A literature review showed that people with pain, especially women, often have attitudes and goals that are different from, and sometimes opposed to, the attitudes and goals of their practitioners; patients seek to have their pain legitimized, while practitioners focus on diagnosis and therapy (Frantsve and Kerns, 2007). Consumers testified before the committee that patients often believe practitioners trivialize pain, which makes them feel even worse. Researchers working with patient focus groups have noted the 'perceived failures of providers to fully respect, trust, and accept the patient, to offer positive feedback and support, and to believe the participants’ reports of the severity and adverse effects of their pain' (Upshur et al., 2010, p. 1793)."
Institute of Medicine, "Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research" (Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 2011), pp. 153-154.
34. Tolerance of Opiates and Escalation of Effective Dosage
"During long-term treatment, the effective opioid dose can remain constant for prolonged periods. Some patients need intermittent dose escalation, typically in the setting of physical changes that suggest an increase in the pain (eg, progressive neoplasm). Fear of tolerance should not inhibit appropriate early, aggressive use of an opioid. If a previously adequate dose becomes inadequate, that dose must usually be increased by 30 to 100% to control pain."
"Treatment of Pain." The Merck Manual for Health Professionals. Merck & Co. Inc. Last accessed November 1, 2017.
35. Majority of Pain Patients Use Prescription Drugs Properly
"The research findings noted above need to be set against the testimony of people with pain, many of whom derive substantial relief from opioid drugs. This tension perhaps reflects the complex nature of pain as a lived experience, as well as the need for biopsychosocial assessments and treatment strategies that can maximize patients’ comfort and minimize risks to them and society. Regardless, the majority of people with pain use their prescription drugs properly, are not a source of misuse, and should not be stigmatized or denied access because of the misdeeds or carelessness of others."
Institute of Medicine, "Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research" (Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 2011), p. 145.