What needs to change in pain management? Despite broad consensus that we have a problem, prescription painkillers are being abused in this country. The rate of deaths and hospitalizations due to painkiller abuse is high and climbing steadily in the U.S. It has become far too easy to walk into a doctor’s office with a chronic condition and receive a prescription for long-acting opiates. If a patient has cancer and is in the end stages of the disease, then the benefits of opiates are clear cut. Not so, if a patient suffers from back pain and will be potentially addicted to the prescription drugs he or she receives for life. Then the benefit of pain management must be weighed against the risk of addiction.

This problem is caused primarily by the health-care system and it is a solvable problem. The first step is to change the approach of the system to managing pain and encourage physicians to find alternatives to prescribing long-acting opiates.

Fortunately, there is bipartisan support on this issue.