Clinicians walk a tightrope when trying to help their patients with chronic pain. They want to be able to ease a patient’s suffering with medication, but must be mindful of the risks of addiction. There are some non-medication treatments for pain, but they’re often hard to access or not covered by insurance. Finding the balance can be challenging and emotionally taxing. And in the wake of the opioid crisis, many clinicians tend to err on the side of caution and under-treat pain.
Antje M. Barreveld and Haider J. Warraich are two physicians deeply familiar with this balancing act. Having seen the heartbreaking effects that opioids can have on patients and their families, both physicians strive to find the right path forward. In this week’s “First Opinion Podcast,” they discuss how to treat chronic pain adequately and ethically.
“My entire residency was dominated by opioids, just like today the residencies are dominated by Covid,” Warraich said.
This conversation emerged from Barreveld’s First Opinion essay, “As a pain specialist, I may have caused more harm by underprescribing opioids,” and Warraich’s essay, “Medicine needs to do right by patients prescribed opioids.” Barreveld is an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Tufts University School of Medicine; Warraich is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and author of the newly published book “The Song of Our Scars: The Untold Story of Pain.”
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