History of Opioids May Help Explain America's Addiction to Pain Killers

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Jill Chadwick

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             Doctors at The University of Kansas Health System say the cause of the national opioid epidemic is multifactorial, and dates to the mid-1980’s.   “That’s when the World Health Organization(WHO) started to focus on pain and cancer pain, in particular,” Dr. Smith Manion, anesthesiologist at The University of Kansas Hospital said.  “The WHO established prescribing guidelines starting with non-opioid medications for mild pain and opioids for moderate to severe pain.” 

            It was during that time that ‘pain’ became a fifth vital sign and doctors began prescribing narcotics for other types of pain. A pain scale from “1 to 10” was developed, but doctors now believe that scale should be replaced with a ‘goal scale’.  

            “Pain is 100% subjective,” said Dr. Talal Khan, anesthesiologist at The University of Kansas Hospital, chair of the Kansas Partnership for Pain and chair of anesthesiology at Kansas University Medical Center. “We need to move away from the pain scale and work with patients to achieve goals based on overcoming their pain using a variety of therapies and treatments.”  Dr. Khan said a goal might be big or small such as the ability to go on a walk with a grandchild or reach for the mailbox.

            In the video, Dr. Manion talks more about the history of opioids and Dr. Khan explains more about moving away from a pain scale and toward a goal scale in helping people to manage or overcome their pain.