Everyone agrees — the opioid drug crisis has reached a tipping point in the United States. According to the CDC’s latest figures, nearly 2 million Americans over the age of 12 either abuse — or are dependent on — opioid drugs. And drug overdoses — predominantly from prescription opioid painkillers such as OxyContin and Percocet — now exceed motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of unintentional death in the U.S.
Tragically, these deaths are 100 percent preventable.
As one physician recently stated, human civilization existed for thousands of years without OxyContin. And we can do without it now. Indeed, there are many safe, effective ways to deal with pain. And I’ll tell you more about these natural approaches in a moment. But first, let’s take a look at the CDC’s proposed plan of action for this crisis.
Too many cooks in the kitchen
In January, the CDC published draft guidelines for prescribing opioid pain drugs. Once finalized, these guidelines will help doctors make decisions about prescribing opioid pain medication to patients 18 and older in primary care settings. The recommendations will focus on the use of opioids in treating chronic pain outside end-of-life care.
Sounds simple enough, right?
Trouble is, the CDC set up five different subcommittees to help draft the final guidelines: a “federal partner” subcommittee…a “core expert” subcommittee…a “stakeholders” subcommittee…and a “board of scientific advisors” subcommittee. Plus, they invited public and peer responses. In addition, they invited no less than 20 professional organizations — such as the American College of Physicians and the Society of General Internal Medicine — to have their say at the table.
The CDC calls it a “tiered” approach to tackling the problem.
I call it a recipe for disaster with zero accountability. Basically it’s more business as usual when it comes to the government.
It’s like the proverbial “flea on the frog on the bump on the log in the hole at the bottom of the sea.” The CDC created a committee that created a group which appointed a PR flak.
Plus, just because the CDC involved all the layers of these groups in the process, we can’t assume they will support the final guidelines. It’s like the government trying to make sausage for breakfast: The chicken is “involved,” but the pig’s not “committed.”
It’s also typical for a Washington, D.C., approach to an “urgent” problem.
But we’re not done yet.
There’s still no timeline for when the CDC will actually publish the final guidelines. But rest assured, concerned citizens, it’s a “priority for the Center,” and presumably for the scientific advisors, the federal partners, the stakeholders, the core experts, and the 20 professional organizations — at least according to the PR flak.
And we’re still not there yet…
Even if the CDC does issue guidelines in a reasonable time frame…and even if the groups do support the guidelines…what’s to stop doctors from just continuing with the same-old, same-old prescription drug approach to treating pain? We’re still just talking about guidelines here. And nothing more.
What we really need is a fundamental change in thinking about pain treatments.
Too much is happening behind closed doors
Of course, in reality, it’s not one big, happy, open collaboration. We are talking about the U.S. federal government, after all.
The American Medical Association and other groups have expressed alarm about the lack of transparency throughout the guideline drafting process. Another quasi-governmental federal entity — the Pain Research Coordinating Committee — strongly criticized the CDC’s “tiered” process. They conducted a study showing that 95 percent of pain patients said the CDC guidelines are discriminatory. And 93 percent said the guidelines would be harmful to pain patients if published as is.
It reminds me of Hillary Clinton’s failed attempts to reform health care 20 years ago and the Obama administration’s more “successful” reform. They locked out doctor and patient groups until after the insurance industry and big pharma had had their say and set all the rules.
Here we go again…with more layers than a Chinese box, or a Russian doll, to make sure there is no transparency and that nobody in the government can ever be held accountable.
The good news is — some of the key recommendations do show some light at the end of the tunnel. (Or in the hole at the bottom of the sea, with the bump on the log and the flea on the frog…)
Right now, there are 12 guidelines regarding prescription pain drug doses, forms, schedules, and protocols. But as I see it, these “dirty dozen” boil down to the two cardinal rules:
First, doctors should promote non-drug therapy as the primary treatment for chronic pain.
Second, before starting drug therapy, doctors should have a clear strategy for when and how to get patients off these drugs. In other words, don’t get into something you can’t get out of.
Too bad you won’t find any real experts on all the proven safe and effective “non-drug approaches” on any of these panels, groups, boards, and subcommittees involved in actually drafting the guidelines.
The good news in this whole mess
As I mentioned earlier…there are many effective approaches to managing your pain without drugs. And they’ve been used safely for thousands of years.
You can learn all about these non-drug approaches to managing pain by visiting my website, www.drmicozzi.com. Simply type the word “pain” in the search box at the upper left hand corner and you’ll come across more than 80 articles I’ve written about natural approaches to pain management.
Of course, I also suggest you take my “emotional type” quiz to learn which natural pain management techniques will work best for you.
Last, keep an eye out for my new drug-free pain management protocol, which will give all the steps you can take for common pain conditions without resorting to dangerous drugs. I’m putting the final touches on it now, and you will be the first to know as soon as it’s finished.
- “Draft CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain,” Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) 1/28/2016