Should doctors give more Oxycontin to chronic pain patients?

by Christopher, BA

We all know of the folly “Just Say No” as it just does not work. I disagree that a physician should ignore the requests of her or his patients, based solely on the perceivable abuse of the drug Oxycontin.

This is an opiate that works wonders for patients in chronic pain situations, and with proper monitoring by an able health care provider — as well as one who is “into” their patients and their well-being — addiction rates can be low among users.

Using anecdotal accounts of “hillbilly heroine” to make the social construction and demonization of this drug (and others) clearly indicate there is a problem. However, the drug and the people who abuse it are taking blame away from policy makers, community leaders, drug companies, and physicians who do not monitor patients effectively.

The real issue here is pain, and millions of people may benefit from regimens of opiate therapy for chronic, acute, and post-op cases. Reagan’s “Just Say No” failed — miserably. Putting one’s outdated slogans to work is an excuse. Doctors in other countries treat pain by listening to their patients. Instead of criminalizing and demonizing individuals, why not address other issues of a structural nature, such as drug policy itself. If drugs were legal, there would be no problem with selling prescription pills. While this issue is touchy and widely debated, I have seen the low addiction rates in countries with legalized drug policies.

Making individuals into criminals furthers our prison industrial complex, and only complicates the real issue: people are hurting. People are in pain. If Oxycontin works, then so be it; let your patients have it. The McDonaldization of our health care industry may prevent physicians from investing in their patients, opting for more bodies and less time with each; this is a problem.

My advice: be a pioneer. Be an advocate. Fight this trend and make our health care shy away from a tertiary, DEA riddled, slogan-brandishing excuses to treat people. We should have the right to get what prescriptions we want when we want them. My grandmother benefited greatly from Oxycontin and is not addicted, or was she ever.

The bottom line: people are going to get drugs if they want them. It is up to us as a community, state, country, and society to decide who is responsible for social ills, and looking to blame citizens is simply a side show. Responsibility goes much higher than those who are abusing drugs. Why are they “abusing” drugs? Is it pseudo addiction? Are doctors getting it wrong? Can you see how one may feel helpless if in pain, due to strict laws and tight lipped health care providers willing to stutter a “Just Say No” at them? I find this not conducive to the health of our nation. You want to look at problems? Look at the DEA; they are more of a problem then any city full of drug abusers. Look at our policies for drug abuse. Why is the U.S. so far behind European countries? Japan? Should we not call off our old, tired slogans and just say, “what do you think we should do for your pain sir?”

“Christopher” is a sociologist.

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