Policy Forum

Policy Forum Policy Forum articles provide a platform for health policy makers from around the world to discuss the challenges and opportunities in improving health care to their constituencies.

See all article types »

The Inadequate Treatment of Pain: Collateral Damage from the War on Drugs

  • Jason W. Nickerson mail,

    Affiliation: Institute of Population Health, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

  • Amir Attaran

    Affiliations: Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

  • Published: January 10, 2012
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001153

Reader Comments (2)

Post a new comment on this article

Pain is a symptom, not an ailment or disease.

Posted by sgreen1 on 03 Feb 2012 at 22:03 GMT

Although it is widely known that pain is a subjective symptom and not a specific disease or ailment, it is less widely understood that individuals may present this symptom in order to obtain opiates, disability status or secondary gain - in the absence of any organic disorder. The data presented regarding INCB allotments can be interpreted as an inappropriate and excessive allowance for wealthy countries rather than a lack of access for poorer countries. This interpretation is supported by numerous lines of evidence indicating that diversion and abuse of prescription opiates is epidemic in my country (USA). In my home state, annual deaths from prescription opiates now exceed deaths from heroin and other banned opiates.

I believe that the line of reasoning presented is fallacious, and that access to, or the legality of, a wide variety of substances should not depend on unverifiable pseudo-medical uses. One has only to look at the extraordinary epidemic of chronic disabling pain among otherwise completely healthy young men in Colorado - which requires their access to medical marijuana - to understand that if pain is required to have a substance, people will have pain.

No competing interests declared.