Longing for a difference: Super Bowl Ad and Opioid Addiction Insanity
A little over a week ago, this ad ran during the Super Bowl
It deals with opioid -induced constipation and is, in my opinion, both discreet and direct, as well as very, very charming. It’s a very subtle ad for a medication that might help, but it is also much more than that, sending a message that people who take opioids are out there in the world among us, normal people living normal lives. And it’s created in partnership with a number of excellent organizations, such as CreakyJoints, For Grace, US Pain Foundation, American Chronic Pain Association and The Power of Pain.
Immediately, lots of people made a joke about this being an ad for constipated junkies, Bill Maher among them. But it didn’t stop there. Others were outraged, including the White House Chief of Staff, who tweeted “next year, how about fewer ads that fuel opioid addiction and more on access to treatment.”
The very first words in the ad are “if you need an opioid to manage your chronic pain.” The fact that the reactions are so incredibly off the mark makes me worry whether this is the tipping point. Has the War on Drugs now officially succeeded in equating opioid use with addiction, to the point of that people are (wilfully) closing their eyes to the very legitimate role opioids play in the management of severe chronic pain? How else could an intelligent person like the White House Chief of Staff claim that this little ad fuels opioid addiction? I’m still stuck how on earth that could possibly be the case, but will move on to something else. Namely the issue of access to treatment.
I don’t mean the kind of treatment that Mr. McDonough mentioned. I mean the treatment of chronic pain, which is getting harder and harder to get. Because chronic severe pain often requires opioids. Due to the government cracking down on the “peddlers” of the drugs (i.e., doctors), it is becoming much harder for them to write the prescriptions without being scrutinized in an extremely obstructive way. It’s also getting much more difficult for the “junkies” (i.e., the people living with chronic pain) to fill their prescription. In New York, it is now against the law for pharmacists to stock more than a certain amount of any opioids, which mean that they may not be able to fill prescriptions.
The people who suffer in all of this are the people who live with chronic pain. I don’t often use the term ‘suffer,’ but in this case I mean it. Having the kind of chronic pain that requires treatment by opioids, and not being able to get it treated, is tantamount to being tortured. And that’s what happens day after day, all over the US and Canada, where millions live with high levels of chronic pain. With these increasing restrictions, based on scaremongering, we are held prisoner by the War on Drugs.
Unfortunately, the Geneva Convention doesn’t apply to us, and thus, the torture continues, while the world and men like Maher and McDonough look down on us as junkies, all the time perpetuating the stereotype that opioids = addiction.
But it doesn’t. A large meta study showed that when prescribed and taken correctly, taking opioids result in addiction in a quarter of one percent. (1) When you add people who have previously been addicted to the sample being studied, that number increases to a whopping 3.3 percent. (2)
That means more than 97 percent of those receiving a correct prescription and, likely, education in how to take the medication correctly, do not get addicted.
So where is the opioid crisis coming from? I suspect a lack of education, both of doctors and patients. Most doctors don’t know the intricacies of pain management techniques, nor do they have the time or the resources to properly educate their patients. Additionally, the people who are not getting the prescriptions that they need may seek the pills elsewhere — because remember about the torture — and, not receiving the supervision of a doctor, may take them in a way that could lead to addiction.
Maybe if a fraction of the money spent on the War on Opioids were to be spent on education materials, the rate of addiction would go down. Instead, they blindly restrict and compassion flies out the window. Dan Malito has a theory that we are on the way to banning narcotic medications entirely, and I think he might be onto something.
The ad that started this rant ends with the suggestion that if the viewer is longing for a difference, they should check out the website.
I am longing for a difference. As are so many of my peers who rely on opioids to achieve a basic quality of life. Because that’s what it is about for us. These drugs make the difference between being housebound, maybe bedbound and perhaps suicidal, and being able to live our lives, to be there for our families, to work, to contribute, to laugh.
We are your friends, your family, your neighbours, and your colleagues. And we need your help. Alone, we cannot fight this tide of crazy.
Help us turn the tide.