While the physical effects of chronic pain are obvious, experts say that the government’s inability to make systemic changes that help those who suffer is costing Americans more money than any other illness.
According to the Minnesota Post, chronic pain continues to become more common throughout the country, specifically in women, minorities, and individuals with limited economic resources. Considering these disturbing trends, many feel as if the government isn’t doing enough to nip this problem in the bud.
Critics point to the health care’s system failure to address psychosocial connections to pain, instead investing resources in public programs that only target emotional or physical pain. Data from the Journal of Pain shows that America spends a whopping $635 million each year in health care costs and lost productivity related to chronic pain.
In addition to a lack of psychosocial treatment, critics of the health care system point to the obscene amount of opioids and prescription medication that is negligently prescribed to chronic pain sufferers on a regular basis.
Providing chronic pain sufferers with easy access to opioids can quickly turn discomfort into addiction, which makes the problem exponentially worse. Since most health care plans include a co-pay per doctor’s visit, most would rather save their money and accept painkillers instead of holding out for comprehensive treatment.
Over 1.5 billion people around the world suffer from chronic pain, and 100 million of them are American. Critics of the health care system say that a multidisciplinary plan needs to be implemented to reduce these shocking numbers, which would include pain education and alternative treatments.
According to the National Pain Report, a recent report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health focused on this very issue, much to the dismay of some medical professionals.
In basic terms, the report found that doctors are far too lenient when prescribing opioids and painkillers to those who suffer from chronic pain. However, Dr. David Nagel is one of many who claims that he is merely doing his job, and will continue to do so until better treatments are developed and proven to work.
“There is no universal understanding of chronic pain. There is no universal solution to the problem; in fact, there is no solution. There is no universal definition of what chronic pain management actually is,” said Nagel.
With the cost of chronic pain management continuing to mount and a dearth of proven treatments outside of opioids, it seems as if there is no immediate end in sight for this global epidemic.