By Lauren Loftus, April 2017
“We created a culture where people have the impression that they should have no pain, because that’s what we told people for a long time,” says Dr. Bentley Bobrow, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix and chief medical officer of ThePainProject.com. Over the last decade or so, he says, “we tried to treat every single kind of pain, and we over-treated it. And we inadvertently helped people become dependent on medication and surgeries.”
According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, on average, one person dies every day in the state from an overdose of prescription pain relievers – opioids such as Oxycodone and Vicodin that, like heroin, work by attaching to receptors in the brain and blocking the experience of pain. These pills are prescribed for all types of ailments, Bobrow says, often appropriately for acute pain associated with surgical recovery, broken bones, etc., but also for chronic pain that may not have a direct diagnosis. “When you see a doctor and do the tests and they don’t find anything wrong with your back or knee… then they give you a prescription,” he says.
Dr. Bobrow says medical training needs to shift from the biomedical model – “what you can see, what you can quantify” – to the biopsychosocial – biological factors in addition to psychological and social factors. “All of these things together are what form our experience of pain,” he says.