Americans think people with chronic pain should suck it up

Poll shows greater concern for painkiller abuse than the actual pain

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Image credit: Flickr/epSos.de


A new health and medical poll shows that far more Americans are concerned about the abuse of painkillers than the chronic pain that forces people to seek relief through prescribed drugs.

Which is sort of weird since 63% of respondents to the Research!America poll said they know someone whose pain was extreme enough for them to seek prescription medication, yet only 18% believe chronic pain is a major health problem.

While prescription painkiller addiction is a real problem in this country, it's interesting that chronic pain essentially is dismissed by more than 80% of respondents. Maybe some Americans actually have to be in chronic pain to believe it's real. Everyone else is just a crybaby!

For a large percentage of elderly Americans, chronic pain is part of their daily lives, a byproduct of aging as the body's various parts -- particularly the joints -- begin to wear out. Perhaps the poll respondents who dismiss chronic pain should advise old people to stop complaining or maybe just stop getting old!

According to Research!America, a "high percentage (82%) of respondents believes that taking prescription painkillers for long-term, chronic pain could result in addiction, which nearly 50% of Americans describe as a major health problem. An overwhelming majority (85%) are very concerned or somewhat concerned that prescription pain medication can be abused or misused. Indeed, 40% believe that prescription medication abuse and addiction is a major problem in their community."

It probably is in some communities. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 1.9 million Americans are hooked on their prescribed painkillers. That's almost 2 million people! Which is only 98 million fewer than the 100 million adult Americans plagued with chronic pain, which costs about $600 billion each year in treatment and lost productivity.

There's a disconnect here, folks.

Here's another disconnect: The poll respondents were asked, "Which of the following would you describe as a major health problem in the U.S.?" The results:

Cancer -- 59%
Heart disease -- 52%
Diabetes -- 52%
Drug addiction -- 47%
Depression -- 42%
Alcoholism -- 37%
Alzheimer's disease -- 34%
Chronic pain -- 18%
Parkinson's disease -- 15%
Not sure -- 15%

Notice too that alcoholism is ranked well below drug addiction, even though, as WebMD says:

Despite all of the focus on illegal drugs of abuse such as cocaine, alcohol remains the number one drug problem in the United States. Nearly 18 million adults in the U.S. are dependent on alcohol or have other alcohol-related problems.

In teenagers, alcohol is the most commonly abused drug, and 14% of teens have been intoxicated.

Withdrawal, for those physically dependent on alcohol, is much more dangerous than withdrawal from heroin or other narcotic drugs.

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