Addressing the dual crises of pain and opioids — a case for patient-centeredness

Recent data suggest that health care is a top priority among American voters who will be heading to the polls. Pain is a health issue that touches all lives at some point, whether personally or through extended family. 

Caring for pain has become deeply intertwined with the opioid crisis. Though largely fueled by illicit opioid use, the opioid crisis has understandably spurred national and local organizations, as well as the public, to seek methods of pain treatment that carry the lowest risks. That in turn has led to policies that often emphasize limits on opioid prescribing.

We must remember, however, that opioid limits alone do not constitute a pain care plan, nor do blanket opioid limits appreciate the individual differences across patients who live with pain. Over the past 15 years, the absence of patient-centered pain care contributed to an over-focus on prescribing opioids. Now, we are in danger of repeating the mistakes of the past by applying a one-size-fits-all regulatory “solution” that fails to address the specific needs of the individual and fails to treat their pain.

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