No pain, no gain: Q&A with Amy Mosher-Garvey

Addiction counselor talks prescription drug reliance and underlying causes of the heroin epidemic
No pain, no gain: Q&A with Amy Mosher-Garvey

Are we as a society too reliant on pain medication?
Pain management is of course necessary. No one should suffer needlessly. We have good resources for pain management—not all of them prescription opiate in nature—and they should be available to patients in need. The fact remains, though, that it’s just much easier to treat my back pain by taking pills and resting than to follow through with physical therapy. We are a bit of a microwave society—why should I wait for relief when I can have it now?

Why do we consume more prescription painkillers than any other country in the world?
We have more resources. We do have a sense of entitlement around the standard of living that we should have. We don’t like to suffer, and we have a strange idea of what suffering is. I think we also don’t see addiction triggers in the industry. I go in and get my wisdom teeth pulled, my dentist wants me to have a good experience and offers me more than adequate pain relief. I feel attended to, she feels she’s offered me good care. Win-win. Now I have thirty pills to treat pain that really should be manageable without opiates within about forty-eight to seventy-two hours. But hey, I feel good when I take them and I have them so why shouldn’t I? I mean, my doctor gave them to me so it must be OK.

Is there an underlying cause of the heroin epidemic?
I think we need to be careful from a marketing perspective how we lay blame for this. If we point the finger at the medical community we risk creating a divisive and resentful field of providers. This is a sea change. The blame cannot be placed on any one part of the problem. Public perception needs to change. Demand needs to change. Expectations of reasonable and expected pain versus unnecessary suffering need to be clarified. Physicians need to be armed with additional tools to treat pain. Pharma plays a part too. Treaters need more resources. Parents and adults need to limit access to opiates for their precious children. Outcomes and monitoring need to be strengthened. Clinical guidelines can be created and/or improved. The solution is out there. In our community it has already begun. 

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