The National Opioid Dependence Epidemic
The United States is presently experiencing an unprecedented opioid epidemic crisis. According to the National Institute of health, more than 115 people in the United States die daily from an opioid overdose. The misuse of, and addiction to opioids is a serious national crisis that affects public health and as social and economic welfare. The total economic burden on the country is estimated at a staggering $78.5 billion dollars. This abuse and misuse was brought on in the 1990s by pharmaceutical companies who reassured the medical community that patients could not become addicted to prescription opioids, and by physicians who were willing to engage in liberal prescribing of opioids.
Opioid dependence is typically a chronic, relapsing illness, associated with significantly increased rates of morbidity and mortality.
Opioid dependence can involve:
- Misuse of prescribed opioid medications
- Use of diverted opioid medications
- Use of illicitly obtained heroin
Interventional pain management physicians are at the forefront of trying to contain this unfortunate crisis. As a specialty, we aim to treat chronic pain conditions by utilizing a multi-modal approach that de-emphasizes reliance on opioids. There are now numerous ultra-minimally invasive procedures with proven safety and efficacy, which can be used to effectively treat most chronic pain conditions of the spine, joints, and soft tissue. Pain management physicians are also at the forefront of regenerative medicine modalities to help increase the body’s capacity to heal on its own. These advances in interventional pain medicine can be very effective in reducing pain, suffering, and significantly improving function, thereby significantly decreasing the need for use of opioids.