“It is a sign of our failure as a society to support people with healthy tools for relationships, work, and life,” Ryan says. “I think this is a poverty problem and a mental-health problem. We see lots of rural patients with terrible job prospects and not a lot of compelling alternatives. [Drug use] provides a relief.”

So true, yet misunderstood by so many. Our drug-control policies result in only harm, as they do nothing to address this; hence they are failing, and loved ones continue to suffer and die.

To find real solutions, it is important to amend the following statement by adding that pharma is not alone. The Joint Commission on Healthcare Organizations' campaign "pain the fifth vital sign," Medicare/Medicaid tying claims reimbursement to patient reports of pain relief, and our continued failure to adequately regulate pharma marketing and business practices all put heavy pressure on MDs to Rx opioids.

Epidemiologists trace the opioid epidemic to the 1990s and an aggressive marketing campaign by pharmaceutical companies that urged doctors to treat pain using powerful new opioid-based drugs. Those drug companies, which now face hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits, assured the public that drugs such as OxyContin were not addictive, while suppressing evidence that they were. Doctors overprescribed the pills and patients abused them.

Excellent piece. Dr Ryan is a credit to Princeton.

Patrick Doyle
Waltham, Mass.