Providing straightforward information pertaining to drugs, drug use & drug policy. The Grey Pages promotes drug-related literacy and advocates a system of viable and tolerant drug policies. This is my personal collection of commentaries, essays, tid-bits, and other such writings on everything ranging from drug use, drug policy and drug-myths, to drug-science, addiction, human behavior, and the workings of the human brain. I started this blog with a particular focus on opioids, and over the past year have found my interest gravitate toward the intriguing, ever-changing world of designer intoxicants (i.e. "research chemicals" or "designer drugs").

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Why Medicate Pain?"

Many who crusade against the practice of chronic opioid therapy are suggesting that people in pain can and should simply come to terms with suffering. And even go so far as to suggest it may be "good for them" or "good for the healing process".

Religions and subcultural groups throughout history have often objected to palliative-oriented treatments which were aimed at treating symptoms rather than a cause; even when the latter was not possible. Some believed that pain was a crucial part of the body's healing process, while others believed pain was god's way of sending a message or punishment.

There is an anti-narco attitude which is prevalent throughout the christian community and was/is likely rooted in the judeo-christian notion that suffering or pain was a testing of one's faith, or was symbolic of the pain and sacrifice of jesus christ; That to avoid pain was an act of cowardice or sin, a lack of faith, an act of disrespect to god. Pain aside, this idea applied to any form of aversive experience, physical or emotional.

To this day there remains the puritan belief that there is something inherently wrong or immoral about altering one's consciousness, to supress negative experience with a drug. This is all too apparent in society's attitude toward not only illicit drug use, but also the use of antidepressants, antipsychotics, and other psychotrophic prescription drugs. It is perhaps most apparent with society's degenerative attitude toward the opioids.

"How long will we set aside while our family told these lies that they can't deal with a little pain? You have to give yourself time to heal, not dope it up so you don't feel!" ~Anti Opioid Crusader (grammatical errors are left unchanged to help characterize the credibility of the source)

Such statements demonstrate the scientific illiteracy of such an attitude. Such individuals are speaking purely from superstition or ignorance; as they have no actual understanding of how pain and the human nervous system works. So, why do we treat the symptom of pain in itself?

Pain retards the body's healing process. Pain itself elicits additional pain. When pain over an extended period is not supressed (and instead is simply 'dealt with'), pain circuits of the sensory nervous system undergo an adaptive neuroplastic process of potentiation, causing the pain-flow to continue even after the source of the pain has healed. At this point, the pain has become a serious chronic disorder of the central nervous system; Researchers now classify this as a disease state, which by this time has become completely unrelated to the original condition or injury.

Untreated chronic pain is likely to cause depressive disorders, hypertension, aneurysm, stroke, heart attack, and premature death - take Sean Reynolds for instance (google it). Opioids prevent acute pain from becoming a chronic condition, and facilitate the body's natural healing process.

Opioid treatment on a long term basis is not simply a means of "covering up the pain"; but serves multiple purposes. Aside from blunting the perception of pain, which - by the time they are initiated - has become a self-perpetuating chronic condition, opioids achieve the following:

Restoring mobility, physical function & employability (and thus independence)

Improving mood and cognitive function

Restoring balance in mood, sleep, and eating patterns

Improving the daily quality of life for the user or patient


  1. Indeed I would have much better quality of life, if you where my doctor. I have chronic lower back pain. It affects almost every aspect of my life. Making me a worse husband, father and dog owner, than I have to be.

    My "doctor" prescribes acetaminophen and codeine. Well it is better than nothing. But during the evening and night I am without pain relief.

    I live in Sweden. One of the most "drug taliban" countries in the world. Here you have to "learn to live" with chronic pain. Just as you said in another post, it is good for you. Strong opioids gets you dependent. That is really bad for you. It is more important to avoid dependence, than raise someones quality of life.

    Because if you are dependent in Sweden, you can not have good quality of life. Pain is better than dependence.

    You write one of the best blogs I have ever read about drugs, addiction and opiates/opioids.

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