Congress Passes Opioid Bill That Ignores Pain Patients (Again)
Congress Passes Opioid Bill That Ignores Pain Patients (Again)September 25th, 2018 by Cindy Perlin
On September 17, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 (OCRA) by a vote of 99 to 1. A similar bill passed the House in June. Like many other bills of its type, OCRA fails to adequately address either addiction or the needs of chronic pain patients. Amidst an opioid abuse crisis that has already cost the U.S. economy over $1 trillion and a chronic pain epidemic that costs over $600 billion annually, the bill contains a paltry $8 billion for prevention and treatment. The stated goals of the bill are to stop the flow of illicit drugs into the country and expand treatment options.
The bill is heavily weighted towards drug company interests, earmarking money for the development of new, non-addictive pharmaceutical pain treatments and expanding access to medication-assisted treatment. Medications used to treat opioid addiction, including methadone and buprenorphine, are in themselves addictive and prone to abuse. The bill authorizes a paltry $25 million in grants to hospitals and other acute care settings to develop and implement alternative strategies to opioids for pain management.
This opioid legislation also fails to address one of the most pressing problems affecting pain patients: an out-of-control Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) that is prosecuting physicians who prescribe opioids to legitimate pain patients. These DEA prosecutions are terrorizing physicians, causing them to abandon pain patients in droves. Pain patients are being thrown into abrupt withdrawal, causing many to turn to street drugs for relief.
The legislation also fails to curtail other problems with government overreach that are hurting addicted individuals and pain patients. This includes attempts by the DEA and FDA to outlaw kratom, a Southeast Asian herb, and CBD, a derivative of marijuana and hemp. Both are safe and effective for treating pain and drug withdrawal symptoms. Marijuana legalization, including medical marijuana is not addressed. This is despite the fact that states with medical marijuana programs are reducing overdose deaths and marijuana is a safe and effective alternative pain treatment.
There are many other safe and effective non-pharmacological pain treatments. OCRA gives them lip service rather than assuring that pain patients can access them by requiring adequate insurance coverage. These treatments include acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic, mind/body treatments, massage, physical therapy, low level laser treatments and many others. Many patients could avoid or reduce their reliance on opioids, lessening their chances of addiction and overdose, if they were educated about these treatments and could afford them. Their quality of life could also be improved. Physicians would be less likely to overprescribe opioids if they knew more about these treatments and that their patients were able to utilize them.
OCRA contains 70 separate bills, but, as noted above, fails to address many critical issues. Please sign my petitions here to let Congress know they aren’t done addressing the dual epidemics of opioid abuse and chronic pain.
Learn more about chronic pain treatment alternatives at The Alternative Pain Treatment Directory