Views And Reviews

Don’t demonise prescription opioids

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4727 (Published 19 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4727
  1. Bob Roehr, biomedical journalist
  1. Washington, DC, USA
  1. bobroehr{at}aol.com

Our preoccupation with opioid misuse could become the tail wagging the dog

I use an opioid drug, hydrocodone, every six hours, and have done so for about a decade. I have a lot of company. The latest research, a large government survey with over 50 000 respondents, shows that 92 million Americans used a prescription opioid in 2015, 38% of the adult population, few of whom were being treated for terminal cancer. A tiny proportion, just 0.8%, had a drug use disorder.1

The paper received scant attention because it did not fit the current framing of the US’s overdose epidemic as a “crisis,” with its hysteria redolent of “reefer madness.” It has been blown out of proportion by those promoting a war on drugs mentality.

I have chronic pain associated with knee replacement and spinal surgeries. Each incident was accompanied by nerve damage and, while the surgeries helped, there are limits to how much a damaged nerve will recover. As a result, I experience …

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