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The Politics of Pain

The Politics of Pain

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Published by: mbx47 on Nov 13, 2012
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The Politics of PainMargo Schlichter Tom Newkirk English2 May 2012The Politics of Pain
 
Imagine two people walking into the same doctors office looking for a prescription for  pain medication. Susan Shinagawa is a forty-four year old Japanese American that lives in SanDiego California. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991 and has had recurring problemswith the cancer every since. She has been in constant, chronic pain ever since her original diag-nosis and she takes prescription opioid narcotics through an infusion pump every day to lower her level of pain (Rosenfeld 57). Reid Ferris is a successful twenty-three year old entrepreneur.He owns his own house and his own business, but his wealth has led him down a destructive pathof partying. He originally took oxycontin pills as a way to get high, but now he needs them justto function (Biaso).As these two, very different people went to the doctors office, imagine that they got treat-ed the same way when asking for pain medication. Reid, who is actually addicted to the drug,continuously makes it harder for patients like Susan to receive the prescription medication theyneed. This causes Susan to be handled with suspicion as she struggles to prove to her doctor thatshe actually needs the medicine to relieve pain. According to the Institute of Medicine, we arein a “public health crisis” regarding pain and medication (IOM 1).In today’s society, when pain killers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin are brought up, weimmediately jump to irrational conclusions. We think of celebrities spiraling out of control dueto their prescription drug use, or of patients that can no longer function normally because of their drug abuse. In reality, these opioid drugs were created with a specific and careful purpose; to re-lieve chronic pain. The public perception of pain medication and the underlying goal of painmedication seem incongruous. While the public views daily pain medication as an addiction thatcan ruin lives, the main goal of pain medication, taken properly, is to help people function nor-mally in their everyday life.
 
The subjectiveness of pain and the publicity of these drugs have made the issue contro-versial to a point where a stigma has been attached to those who take pain medication. The ques-tion is continually asked, where is the line drawn between providing adequate pain relief for pa-tients and supporting a drug habit? Doctors are now increasingly reluctant to treat patients for their pain, leaving those with chronic illness in a debilitated state of life. The focus on the nega-tive aspects of pain medication in the media has led to an increased skepticism over the necessityfor medication, leaving patients with real, chronic pain untreated and suffering. Scott Fishman,directior of pain medicine at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine said, “For many patients, chronic pain becomes a disease itself,” (Hitti). The urgency of this issue has cap-tured public attention in recent years when an increased number of chronic pain sufferers have been denied treatment.According to the Institute of Medicine, approximately 100 million adults experiencesome type of chronic pain in the United States (IOM 1). Serious health issues such as cancer,multiple sclerosis, and arthritis can account for the wide range of health conditions that can causethe debilitating pain over an extended period of time (Sifferlin). It has been recorded that only50 percent of chronic pain sufferers that had spoken to their doctors about their issues got suffi-cient relief (Rosenburg). Pain management is clearly a national controversy. The fact that painis personal and subjective makes people wary to treat it. Pain leaves no physical evidence,meaning that those who suffer from pain have to self-report their problems. This leaves doctorswith the ethical dilemma of learning when and how to trust patients. Chronic pain in the UnitedStates totals $560 to $635 billion each year due to medical bills, lost work productivity, andworkers compensation (IOM 1). It is in the country’s best interest economically to treat chronic

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