American Society of Addiction Medicine: Prevent Misuse of Pain Medications, But Do Not Withhold Them From Patients Who Need Them

May 16, 2001, 01:00 ET from American Society of Addiction Medicine

   CHEVY CHASE, Md., May 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Society of Addiction
 Medicine (ASAM) recognizes the important role of opioids in the treatment of
 pain, and the necessity of having different types of opioids available to meet
 the needs of patients with serious pain problems.  ASAM also recognizes that
 diversion of prescription pain medications for use by addicted individuals or
 for sale by others is an important public health and law enforcement problem.
     In a Statement released today, ASAM President Andrea Barthwell, M.D.,
 FASAM said that "diversion of prescription pain medications, principally
 opioids, occurs because of addicted individuals who seek these drugs, or
 because of individuals who divert them for sale.  Restriction of the
 availability of opioid pain medications will not reduce problems of diversion
 and addiction, but may deter effective pain treatment for many individuals who
 suffer with pain."
     "ASAM," Barthwell said, "is concerned about and opposed to the diversion
 and abuse of opioid medications because of the threat to individuals and the
 public health.  ASAM supports law enforcement in its efforts to identify and
 intervene in medication diversion.  At the same time, ASAM encourages and
 supports broader access to medical treatment for individuals addicted to
 prescription drugs, as well as to other substances.
     "An important approach to curbing prescription drug diversion is to
 encourage the health care community, state and federal legislators, law
 enforcement agencies and pharmaceutical manufacturers to establish education
 programs and monitoring procedures to ensure that patients who need opioid
 medications for pain control have access to them, while individuals who would
 divert or traffice the pain medications do no."
     The treatment of chronic pain most often requires a multidimensional
 approach.  Opioids alone are rarely effective.  If opioids are indicated as a
 component of treatment, they must be used responsibly and appropriately, with
 proper evaluation and follow up of the patient.  The goals of opioid treatment
 of chronic pain are to decrease pain and increase the level of function of the
     When properly prescribed and monitored, the development of addiction to
 opioids in the course of pain treatment is rare in patients with no history of
 addictive disease.  Special care is required in supporting patients with a
 history of addiction while using opioids for pain treatment, but effective
 treatment of pain should be provided to all patients, including those with
     Because misunderstandings regarding the nature of addiction are often a
 barrier to proper pain management, ASAM seeks to educate physicians and the
 lay public about the proper approaches to the treatment of pain and about the
 fact that the appropriate treatment of pain with opioid medication does not
 inevitably lead to addiction.  ASAM is also engaged in improving access to
 appropriate pain treatment for all patients, including those with addictive
 disorders, using either opioid or non-opioid treatment, as appropriate.  ASAM
 has undertaken this in collaboration with the American Pain Society and the
 American Academy of Pain Medicine.
     The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) is a national medical
 specialty society of physicians engaged in research on and prevention and
 treatment of addiction to alcohol, nicotine and other psychoactive substances.
 The Society's mission is to educate physicians and to improve access to
 treatment for individuals with addictions.
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SOURCE American Society of Addiction Medicine