ArticlesScience & HealthHow Did Opioids Become So Prevalent?

11 months ago2 min

While the “Opioid Crisis” has drawn a lot of attention from both a healthcare and political perspective, a contributing factor to the prevalence of opioids may be related to how the medical field thinks about pain management.  Opiods are drugs typically prescribed for the relief of pain.  In the 1990’s, hospitals and doctors began to be graded heavily based on patient satisfaction scores.  A major contributor to that score was the level of patient pain.  Whether by choosing a smiley face that matched how you felt or grading your pain from 0-10, healthcare professionals attempted to identify how much pain you were experiencing.

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What’s often either not communicated with patients or is communicated but not accepted is that it might not be possible to get their pain to a zero.  If you just had surgery on your stomach and your pain level is at a 10 but you can handle a pain level of 6, it’s more beneficial to use a smaller dosage of painkillers such as opioids and for a shorter period to get your pain to a level that’s physically tolerable rather than a level that’s zero.  Then, as other forms of treatment and healing occur, getting the pain level even lower.  Opioids are habit-forming and taking them for a prolonged period or with the expectation that you should have no pain at all, even after a surgery, increases the likelihood of forming an addiction.

With doctors being graded on patient pain levels and patients often being unable to accept any level of pain beyond zero, a recipe was created for prescribing and consuming opioids that may not technically be necessary for the treatment of a particular ailment or condition.

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