The “opioid prescribing problem” created by our medical system will continue even as we stop prescribing opioids, until we change our medical thinking.

This is obviously a very serious topic that I do not take lightly. The first thing to touch on is the fact that when it comes to addiction, it is not about the substance that someone becomes addicted to but rather the potential in ones environment that creates susceptibility to addictive behavior. (To understand this more, please watch this video ). Thus, even given the fact that opioids have highly addictive properties, my concern is more centered around how the current medical model and specifically physicians are not thoughtful with how we treat people when it comes to chronic health conditions. My fear is that this level of thinking and medical behavior is only going to continue to occur until the next epidemic surfaces. We continue to search for answers in medicine that lay outside of the individual patient. We search for answers in the lab to find high powered, potent medication that can have significant short term benefit without regard to long term consequence. The opioid epidemic, as horrific as it has gotten, is a representation of the level of thinking we are dealing with . Our thinking has to change. The solutions that we are looking for, needs to come from a holistic model, not a reductionistic model.

As I have the pleasure of working with patients and see the experiences that people have at the doctors office, it becomes painfully obvious that doctors are not putting both the time and effort (thinking) into patient care for people dealing with chronic illnesses. There is often an argument that it is not the doctors fault that this is occurring but rather a product of the current medical system. While that is true on one level, it is also the doctors responsibility to think critically and work with their patient’s to go over all potential options when addressing chronic symptoms rather than using re-occurring prescription drug based treatments without thought of long term impact. My fear is that the next opioid is sitting out there in the pharmacy and we are going to fall back into the same problem that we currently find ourselves in based on our current medical approach to addressing chronic health concerns.

As the Youtube video above indicates, it not the substance but the environment that is created and nurtured around the individual that is the larger problem. As healthcare practitioners, we need to be creating environments that help support our patient’s to engage in behavioral change. Helping them to understand the power that their day to day choices make on their health. We need to establish an environment that is conducive to healing and treating the cause of disease rather than trying to suppress and mask symptoms. As we focus on this, change will begin. Change not only in the health of individuals, but change in the level thinking that has gotten us into these unfortunate circumstances.

Change can start with you. You can begin asking you doctor to think outside the box with regards to your health. You can ask them to help you address the cause of your illness, rather than treating the symptoms. You can evaluate your current health routine and ask yourself if what you are doing is moving your towards improvement. If you are uncertain of that, then begin educating yourself. Talk to people, ask them what they are doing. Find doctors that will spend the time with you to begin addressing the cause. Demand this, as we need to begin a change of thinking when it comes to our health.

Naturopathic physician who is educating people about their health in order to empower them to practice self care.