Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Lesson in Chronic Pain Management from Friedrich Nietzche

"He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how."  

I bet you've never seen a Friedrich Nietzsche quote in a work comp blog post before.  I came across this in a book recently, but I've also seen it plastered on social media and an occasional wall poster. Leaving aside for a moment the fact that the quote is almost always taken out of context (Nietzsche wasn't exactly the most uplifting philosopher of the 19th century), the quote still offers insight into the most difficult and frustrating dynamic of chronic pain management: 

The psycho-social disposition of the injured worker.  

How can we ask injured workers to take fewer pain meds... how we can ask them to engage in non-pharmacological therapies... how we can ask them to go through the weaning process... how can we ask them to contemplate a life that might not be totally pain free... if they lack the why.  If they don't have a job they're excited to get back to... if they don't have a supportive family or social environment... if they haven't worked through the devastating and often latent effects of childhood trauma... if they haven't dealt with co-morbid conditions like depression and obesity... then how can we ask them to change?   

No structure can be rebuilt on a faulty foundation.  And the life of a chronic pain patient cannot be rebuilt without addressing the underlying cause of the chronicity.

So what do we do?  Massachusetts has outlined a pretty compelling approach to addiction prevention and treatment in that state.  The Governor's Opioid Working Group has put together a comprehensive document built around 12 core principles (the detail behind each is contained in the document):

  1. Create new pathways to treatment
  2. Increase access to medication-assisted treatment
  3. Utilize data to identify hot spots and deploy appropriate resources
  4. Acknowledge addiction as a chronic medical condition
  5. Reduce the stigma of substance use disorders
  6. Support substance use prevention education in schools
  7. Require all practitioners to receive training about addiction and safe prescribing practices (see my post from Monday on this topic)
  8. Improve the prescription monitoring program
  9. Require manufacturers and pharmacies to dispose of unused prescription medication
  10. Acknowledge that punishment is not the appropriate response to a substance use disorder
  11. Increase distribution of naloxone to prevent overdose deaths
  12. Eliminate insurance barriers to treatment     
Are you thinking "this is intended for a group health / medicaid audience in the state of MA"?  Think again.  Most, if not all, of these principles should apply to us in workers' compensation.  If we don't get serious about treating the whole individual, we'll have little hope of making progress in the fight against prescription drug misuse and abuse. 

On Twitter @PRIUM1

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