A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
~ Proverbs 17:22
It’s 2013, the start of a new year, and we’ve got a big book ahead of you. This issue our focus is on opioids, and we want to set a few things straight before we get into it.
First, opioids have their uses, and there are reasons why doctors prescribe them for short-term use. These medications are effective for handling pain and pain relief, and sometimes are the best route to take when treating a particular problem. When prescribed and taken correctly, opioids can be a very good form of treatment for the person taking them.
The problem often comes when one of those two things runs off course. If prescribed incorrectly, opioids can cause damage to the person who takes them. There’s the cycle of addiction to deal with, as well as the potential overdosage of meds, resulting in further harm to the body or even death. For example, constipation is a real issue for those who use opioids, so much so that it can become a real medical problem (something our editor in chief has personal experience with, as documented in this issue).
All that said, there is a reason why doctors prescribe opioids — they’re effective for treating pain. Our outlook on the problem is different, however. Instead of throwing pain meds at our patients as an easy fix to the problem or pain relief, we want to truly diagnose what the issue is, why it’s happening and what we can do to solve it. The difference goes back to that old adage about teaching a man to fish. We could just give you the fish and send you on your way — it’s an easy way to go, and it can be effective. But if we teach you how to fish by essentially finding and solving the issue, then we’re going to fix instead of bandage the problem.
That said, we do still prescribe opioids. We can’t stress enough that this is an effective method of treatment, and it can get the job done — but we prescribe lower dosages than most. One of our patients that is prescribed an opioid receives on average 60mg per day, and that’s because research has shown that it’s a safer dosage. It also means less risks for our patients, and that’s the best route to go.
Point is, we don’t think we should be cavalier with our dosing, or by giving out prescriptions just as a way to placate our patients and move on to the next. We treat our patients like we’d treat our own mothers, and that means that opioids are not always the answer to an effective treatment. They can be part of the solution, but often they’re not the solution.
From our families to yours,
Dr. Tory McJunkin and Dr. Paul Lynch
Founders of Arizona Pain