By Christine Kucera, Guest Columnist
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the leading national public health institute of the United States. The agency is responsible for protecting the public from health and safety threats.
In my opinion, the CDC has no business writing clinical guidelines! Medical guidelines for healthcare/disease management, medication management, and clinical decision making should be developed, reviewed and approved by a diverse team of clinical subject area specialists and key stakeholders, including medical specialists, medical groups, advisory teams, advocates and patients. Not regulatory agencies!
The 2016 CDC opioid guideline, as currently written, has harmed and damaged millions of lives, and caused unspeakable suffering. In effect, the CDC sanctioned torture by failing to promptly address and correct the negative impact of its guideline on individual patient care, addiction and pain management treatment and resources.
The CDC has clearly overstepped its authority by creating a guideline meant to regulate the use of prescription opioids. Any regulatory measures which prevent patients from accessing prescription opioids as indicated for their health and well-being are unethical and should be reconsidered, if not totally withdrawn.
The CDC continues to propagate the false narrative that any patients requiring prescription opioids for any type of pain are or will become addicts. And it continues to claim — without any evidence — that if opioid prescriptions are limited in quantity, type, duration and dose, there will be a reduction in addiction, overdose and death. The facts indicate otherwise. Overdoses are at record high levels.
The True Causes of Addiction
Substance addiction exists because our government has failed to address its true causes, which include poor access to addiction treatment, unethical pain treatment, lack of quality care standards across medical institutions, and lack of legislative laws that protect patients from suffering needlessly.
Addiction is caused by preventable and manageable health disparities, untreated and undertreated mental and physical suffering, genetic metabolic variability, lack of resources, lack of all-inclusive healthcare insurance, lack of provider managed pain care, lack of treatment centers, lack of access to appropriately prescribed medications, lack of drug monitoring systems, lack of access to mental health and pain care providers, lack of timely access to a comprehensive network of providers, and lack of individualized care.
Maybe if the CDC actually focused on the above health and safety issues, we would have guidance on solving the real problems. The CDC has failed miserably to recognize that individual pain care is as unique as the patient who is suffering in pain. Every single person that has pain seeks relief.
Relief comes in many different forms, both healthy and unhealthy. These forms of relief may be self-directed and/or medically managed by clinical staff and providers, and includes exercise, yoga, rest, mobilization, heat/ice therapy, massage, mindfulness, acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, bio-feedback, diet, weight loss, surgeries, water therapy, bicycling, strength/weight training, martial arts, immunotherapy, TENS, anti-inflammatories, anti-seizure medication, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, biologicals, medical/recreational cannabis, CBD, kratom, prescription opioids, illicit/illegal drugs and alcohol — to name a few.
Every Patient is Different
The journey each patient in pain takes is individual. The pain you’ve experienced and lived with is different from mine and everyone else’s.
The terms “acute pain” and “chronic pain” are also misleading and are part of the false narrative. Pain is a symptom. Its management depends on its physical and/or mental cause, not how long it lasts. Pain is the body’s way of sending up a red flag that something is not right.
Duration means nothing in the world of pain, as every minute of the day is different in type, in location and in intensity. Pain goes through cycles, and no person experiences pain the same way.
Until the individuals who wrote this God awful, evil guideline experience pain that is unrelenting, agonizing, non-stop, 24/7 for their entire life, they should back off the false narrative, go back into their non-medical cave, and leave the medical decision making up to the actual physicians who are trained to manage pain with all the tools available and at any quantity required by a patient.
What the CDC should be addressing are the sources of suffering, identifying at-risk individuals and providing a framework for implementing resources and systems of care that are fluid and adaptive to the unique circumstances of each individual.
There are too many outstanding questions and issues which also continue to impact patients and providers. What are the FDA and DEA’s roles and responsibilities? How do their policies meet the objectives of the CDC guideline to reduce addiction, overdose and death? What impact do they have on medical providers treating patients in pain?
Addiction is the public health issue requiring CDC input, not the utilization of prescription opioids for pain treatment.