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Chronic pain ruins people’s lives: Highlight from The Chronic Pain Epidemic


CINDY STEINBERG: Pain
devastates the very fabric of people’s lives. Marriages sometimes fall apart. Friendships are lost. Many are unable to
work and earn a living. They can’t care for their
children and their families. Their self-esteem suffers. They’re unable to enjoy
things that give them pleasure and they become
housebound, isolated, and sometimes depressed. And then, of course, there
is the relentless physical experience, which may be
burning, stabbing, gnawing, knifing, and other
unpleasant sensations. I equate it to
feeling like you’re a prisoner trapped in your
body, but it’s worse than that. You are a prisoner who
is being tortured 24/7 and there’s no means of escape. And yet when people seek help
from health care providers, they’re often met
with skepticism and doubt and mistrust and an
appalling lack of compassion. David talked about the numbers. The scope of chronic pain
in America is enormous. Pain is the number
one reason why Americans visit their doctor. It’s the leading
cause of disability. The Institute of
Medicine has documented that 100 million people
live with chronic pain, and approximately 10% of
those have pain so severe they’re disabled by it. Yet chronic pain is
largely misunderstood by policymakers, the media,
and the public at large. There are many challenges
in treating chronic pain but a critical one
now is the tendency to conflate the opioid epidemic
with the pain epidemic. People with substance abuse
disorder and those living with chronic pain are largely
two separate groups of people with very little overlap. Opioid pain medications are
one of many possible treatments for pain. They don’t help everyone, and
for the people they do help, they don’t completely
take the pain away. But for many pain
sufferers, who take them responsibly and
legitimately, they’re a lifeline that allows
them to function and have some quality of life.

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