Attorney General Jeff Sessions ( AP )
When Attorney General Jeff Sessions advised people in pain to “take some aspirin” and “tough it out” during a speech in Tampa last week, the federal prosecutors in his audience laughed. Mitzie Katzen, who has suffered from complex regional pain syndrome since she was a teenager, had a different reaction.
“I was just floored,” Katzen says. “I could not believe what I was reading, and I thought that has to be somebody who has never experienced really severe pain for any length of time.”
Katzen’s perspective on Sessions’ remarks illuminates the depravity of a policy that sacrifices the interests of patients like her in the name of fighting the “opioid epidemic.”
Saying “this country prescribes too many opioids,” Sessions cited the stoic example set by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, a former Marine general who refused to take pain medication while recovering from hand surgery. Although “it did hurt,” Sessions said, “you can get through these things.”
It’s not clear why people would choose to suffer postsurgical pain that could be easily relieved by an opioid analgesic, especially since the risks associated with medical use of such drugs are minimal. A large study reported last month in The BMJ found that just 1 percent of people who took prescription analgesics after surgery showed signs of “opioid misuse.”
The risk of a fatal overdose among people who take opioids for pain is even lower — something like 0.02 percent annually, judging from a 2015 study reported in the journal Pain Medicine.
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