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How Much Are Docs Responsible for Patients' Opioid Abuse?

By MedPage Today  
   January 12, 2017

A study appearing in the journal Pain attempted to quantify the rate of transition from one-time to chronic opioid use. MedPage Today clinical reviewer F. Perry Wilson, MD, examines the crucial missing data.

This article first appeared January 11, 2017 on MedPage Today.

When I see a patient in clinic, I'm given a sheet with their vital signs like this.

Blood pressure: 142/65. Heart rate 74. Pain: 5 out of 10. I'm a nephrologist. I specialize in chronic kidney disease – a completely painless condition. But there has been a coordinated and I think well-intentioned campaign to increase physicians' awareness of patient pain. Some have argued that the adoption of pain as the "fifth vital sign" has led to an increased rate of opioid prescription, addiction, and overdose.

It is quite clear that overdose deaths are increasing.

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