In October the federal government made narcotic pain medication more difficult to prescribe and for patients to obtain. Essentially, each prescription must be written and can only be for 30 days. For physicians, we cannot renew narcotics by phone and the pharmacist cannot allow refills.
This occurred in part because the medical community had not effectively controlled narcotic prescription use, resulting in continually increasing death rates from overdoses of narcotics, usually when used in conjunction with other prescription pain medications, such as those for anxiety or sleep.
Pain serves only one purpose - to let us know our body is being damaged. While physicians are nearly perfect at eliminating acute pain, we universally fail at controlling chronic pain to the same level, partially because we set too high patient expectations for pills. The cause of chronic pain is different and, as we are now finding, unconsciously learned and reinforced. Contrary to medical thinking a decade ago, we know now that some chronic pain can be cured by, shockingly enough, talk therapy! In University of Michigan studies, up to 80% of women with fibromyalgia were cured through counseling, not medication.
We hate to see our patients in pain. Writing prescription painkillers is easy: it is what the patient expects/requests, makes us feel helpful, makes the patient happier, requires no explanation and little time. However the data shows this pattern leads to addiction and death. While the new law will disrupt our office and pharmacy flow, it will ultimately save lives. And for that, all physicians should be thankful.