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TARGETING THE TRUTH: Do we have a Pain epidemic or an Opioid epidemic?

TARGETING THE TRUTH: Do we have a Pain epidemic or an Opioid epidemic?

By: Dr. Neil Jolly at Louisiana Pain Specialists

A recent article in the New York Times stated that drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. Not only is this an alarming fact, but trends show that the death toll from opioid overdoses is continuing to skyrocket. The government and even President Trump have declared that the opioid epidemic is an issue that needs to be solved, but as a country- are we targeting the problem in the right way?

The opioid epidemic is a major concern, but it’s only a symptom of a greater problem, which is the pain epidemic. A larger number of people are resorting to opioids in America because they are fighting a battle again pain and losing. Finding solutions to the problem of pain is essential to tackling the opioid epidemic because the opioid crisis is a symptom of the problem of pain.

Drug overdoses


Treating the opioid epidemic starts with addressing the root of the issue which is treating the pain adequately. For example, if you wake up every morning bleeding you’re not just going to put a band aid on your wound. Yes, the bleeding will stop but you would investigate what is causing this bleeding to begin with. If you don’t figure out what is causing you to bleed, you will just continue to bleed in the future. Just like this example above, putting a band-aid on the wound is like treating the opioid epidemic. Unless we target the main issue, which is pain, then the problem is only going to continue to be repeated. Discharging or cutting down the use of opioids may lead to a reduction in the number of overdose deaths, but it will also harm patients who use them responsibly to manage their pain.


There is a motto I live by and apply to all situations of life- instead of talking about what is wrong, what can we do to make things better? As a country, we have a responsibility to fix what is wrong with the opioid crisis and solve the pain problem in America. Below I have listed different solutions we can implement for better pain control and less abuse.


We need to educate both patients and physicians prescribing opioids about how opioids work in conjunction with a multi-faceted approach to pain management. Here at Louisiana Pain Specialists, we offer safe, minimally invasive, clinically proven interventional treatments that are highly effective beyond medication management. Opioids may play a role in pain management but shouldn’t be the only treatment option. Opioids can help manage and mask the pain but they are not a solution for treating pain. A patient who is solely taking pain medication without interventions to treat the underlying cause for their chronic pain is at high risk for addiction and reduced positive outcomes for getting rid of the pain. Another important aspect of education is teaching patients and families about the warning signs of addiction and how to prevent unfortunate dependency. Support systems are very important and can help prevent any complications in treatment plans.


There is no quick fix or magic pill for curing pain but there are tangible solutions within your reach. Minimally invasive procedures such as spinal cord stimulation, nerve blocks, steroid injections, and radiofrequency ablation are just some of the numerous therapies that can be offered to help stop the pain. Other alternative therapies such as physical therapy, aqua therapy, yoga, and acupuncture are all great options to help manage pain versus long term opioid use. Open discussions with insurance providers to cover these alternative therapies for those suffering from pain is integral to tackling the pain crisis at its core.


As a nation, we invest in researching treatments for diabetes and cancer but pain is not something people typically think of. Investing into research campaigns for pain treatments – whether it’s new diagnostic tools or new and innovative procedures – is vital for solving the problem of pain.

I have personally seen the positive effects of tackling my patient’s pain from a multifaceted approach. Seeking medical attention from a pain management physician is the safest option for managing your pain and here at Louisiana Pain Specialists, we are here to help.

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