Addiction to Prescription Opioids Reaches Epidemic Proportions

With the rising tide of addiction to prescription opioids, addiction medicine specialists will be called upon to apply their expertise in treating its myriad presentations. Hear leading experts address the range of issues from treating chronic pain effectively to avoiding addiction during Symposium 6, “Pain Treatment in the Setting of the Prescription Opioid Epidemic” from 10 am to noon Saturday in Continental C, Lobby Level of the Hilton Chicago.

“There were more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than motor vehicle accidents in the past year,” said symposium organizer and speaker Mel Pohl, MD, FASAM, Medical Director, Las Vegas Recovery Center. “As a society, we need to step up our efforts to help manage and deal with the fallout of the epidemic. The primary purpose of this session is to inform addiction medicine specialists about the current thinking regarding chronic pain.”

Two key aspects best characterize the problem, he said. The first is that there are people addicted to prescription opioid pain medications. The second is that many people depend on prescription opioid medications for pain relief, but the causative condition for their pain is not getting better. They are experiencing an inadequate response to treatment.

Symposium 6 will cover three components, Dr. Pohl said. One component will address the psychological aspects of pain with commentary on the current state of prescription opioid addiction. “There is a tendency to over-prescribe medications for chronic pain, but there are alternative, non-medication solutions, and we will cover those bases,” he said.

The second component will feature a discussion of what to do with patients who are dependent on opioids but not doing well with their chronic pain. “This component will be instructive on detoxification and medically managed withdrawal, and the disposition of patients who have chronic pain and are not doing well on opioids,” Dr. Pohl said.

The third component will provide an overview of the non-opioid medications and other interventions to relieve chronic pain. “There are a lot of alternative medications that will be helpful for pain that are not dependence-inducing,” he said. “We tend to treat chronic pain as if it is a unilateral phenomenon that is treated by one medication. That approach has proven to be ineffective.”

Symposium 6 will apply state-of-the-art data, statistics, and evidence-based treatment to the critical problem of prescription opioid addiction, Dr. Pohl said. Some attention also will be paid to issues of the families of people in chronic pain. What can be done to support them in the course of their family member’s treatment?

He will introduce and moderate the panel, while Herb Malinoff, MD, FACP, FASAM, Medical Director, Pain Recovery Solutions, PC, and Faculty Member at the University of Michigan Department of Anesthesiology, Ann Arbor, will address opioid detoxification; Ross Halpern, PhD, a private practice pain consultant, Ann Arbor, will discuss epidemiologic and psychological aspects; and Ed Covington, MD, Director, Neurological Center for Pain, Cleveland Clinic, will present issues surrounding appropriate and alternative treatment for pain.

“I hope the audience takes away a broader understanding of the problem of chronic pain and the magnitude of over-prescribing opioid medications for it,” Dr. Pohl said. “Too many people are receiving prescriptions for opioids for pain with very negative outcomes, and that is supported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data and Food and Drug Administration attention. I believe the audience will learn some practical tools to implement in their practices to manage chronic pain for patients and the issues that their families encounter.”