Here's What We Can Do About The Chronic Pain Epidemic

Even during a prescription painkiller and opioid epidemic.

More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain according to the Institute of Medicine, a debilitating reality that costs the country upward of $635 billion each year in treatment and lost productivity.

At the same time, the United States is in the midst of a prescription painkiller epidemic. Widespread overprescription of painkillers resulted in opioid misuse and addiction, a problem that’s muddied the conversation surrounding chronic pain even further.

A panel of experts at The Forum at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health joined David Freeman, a managing editor at The Huffington Post, to discuss those issues and others, including the causes, treatment and impact of chronic pain, as well as the neuroscience behind pain.

In particular, the experts discussed how health care providers can incorporate the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ national pain strategy, which was released earlier this year.

The panel also explored the spectrum of pain management options ― including marijuana and mindfulness meditation ― as well as the regulatory side of pain care, including policy, prescription monitoring and drug research and development.

The hour-long event, which took place Thursday, Nov. 10, featured Josephine Briggs, the director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at NIH, Anne Louise Oaklander, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, Vaughan Rees, an addiction specialist and lecturer at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Cindy Steinberg, the national director of policy and advocacy at the U.S. Pain Foundation.

Suffering The Silence: Portraits Of Chronic Illness