| One-Minute Clinician

Pain Patients, Policymakers and Views of Illicit Drugs

Michael C. Barnes, JD, MIEP, a Washington, DC, attorney on the future of pain management and drug policy. Does medical marijuana have a role?

It’s an interesting time in United States for drug policies:

  • As we see efforts to loosen restrictions on what are currently federally illicit substances like marijuana or mushrooms in some places, there’s a corresponding effort on the part of government to tighten restrictions on controlled medications like opioid pain relievers and benzodiazepine medications
  • We are going to have to address that on one side there’s a liberalization, on the other side there’s a tightening, and try to come up with a better policy which reflects that there must be access to medications for people with legitimate medical needs in the US
  • There must be a system that controls the supply not just of the controlled medications but also of the illicit market in a better way that has been done in the past. That’s going to require a comprehensive look at drug policy in the United States

There are signs of hope!

  • The federal government and other important policymakers are starting to recognize the unintended consequences of initial responses to overdose reduction policy
  • There are some important entities in the federal government recognizing that people with pain are now having difficulty accessing medically necessary opioid treatments
  • We’ve seen, for example, the recommendations from the pain management task force in 2019 to ensure that people with pain can get their medication
  • We’ve seen that the US Senate is proposing to do a hearing on those recommendations
  • Congress now is starting to look at the needs of people with pain

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