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Pain Expert Says Doctors Are Too Scared to Prescribe Medications – People Living in Pain

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posted 12:21 PM EST, Thu January 07, 2010
Doctors Too Scared to Prescribe Pain Medications © Photo Credit: ViaMoi

An expert in pain management from the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University says that millions of Americans are living in pain because doctors are afraid to prescribe sufficient pain killers.

Kathryn Hahn, a faculty member at Oregon State University and the Chair of the Oregon Pain Management Commission, says that more than half of all people suffering through chronic pain fail to receive sufficient analgesia and that the gross economic cost of this pain tops $100 billion each year in America alone. She says that too many people are suffering through pain that could be treated were doctors educated and willing to do so - but says that the few hours of training that doctors receive on the use of opiate medications in medical school leaves them under-prepared to deal with the steady need for pain medication they face in the real world.

In articles published in the Journal of Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy, and The Rx Consultant Hahn said, "We have more sophisticated pain management techniques available now than ever before, but many doctors are not fully informed about all the options available, and also often turn patients away because they're very concerned about the problems with prescription drug abuse.”

Hahn says that many doctors are so uncomfortable about the issue of pain medication prescribing that they prefer to avoid treating chronic pain patients entirely – which in some cases leaves patients unable to find needed medical care. Hahn says, "It's particularly bad with elderly and Medicare patients. Prescription drug abuse is a very real problem, we do have to take necessary steps to address it, but right now the pendulum has swung too far, and legitimate pain problems are not being managed."

Suggestions Hahn offers to improve the outlook for American pain patients include:

  • Convincing medical practitioners to accept a patient’s judgment of what is painful
  • Expanding access to complementary pain management techniques, such as acupuncture or massage
  • Using a wider range of medications to treat pain
  • Convincing patients to lock up or adequately secure their pain medications in the home to reduce unwanted diversion
  • Convincing doctors to stay up to date with the latest pain management techniques
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