National Spine & Pain Centers’ Dr. Aneesh Singla discussed the nation’s opioid public health emergency as a guest on Washington, D.C. Fox 5 News’ “On the Hill.” He and Mike Fraser, executive director of the Association of Health Officials, discussed the need for collaboration between many different groups in the fight against opioid addiction.
“As an interventional pain specialist, I want to help my patients improve their health with non-opiate medications or advanced interventional treatments,” Dr. Singla pointed out. “But if a patient is prescribed an opiate, we want to try to start the patient on the lowest dose possible and keep them on the opiate for the shortest period of time until that acute pain is gone.”
Fraser called today’s opiate crisis “a perfect storm” of factors converging at the same time, including a lack of early understanding of the addictive powers of opiates, as well as a growing demand for patient satisfaction.
“In the United States, we have five percent of world’s population. We use 80 percent of the world’s opiates,” Dr. Singla said. He believes efforts to better identify and address the source of pain can lead to more non-opiate based therapies and ultimately decrease reliance on these medications.
But to do that, “It is going to take significant effort at a lot of different levels and agencies, and a lot of collaboration between physicians and other public health officials,” Dr. Singla said. “As a pain specialist, I want to minimize the over-reliance on opiates. I want to try to get my patients better with non-opioid therapies.”
He believes one of the ways that could happen is by insurance companies removing some of the barriers to non-opiate types of therapies like interventions, physical therapy and MRI imaging to determine the cause of the pain. “If we can find the cause of the pain early and treat it without opiates, a lot of times we can avoid opiates all together,” he said.
Dr. Singla also noted that we need to reset our expectations of pain. His book, “Why It Hurts” provides a thorough explanation of why pain is actually helpful and adaptive to our bodies. It is designed to help patients better understand and cope with pain more effectively.