Friday, July 14, 2017

‘Extreme’ Use of Painkillers and Doctor Shopping Plague Medicare, New Report Says - ProPublica

In Washington, D.C., a Medicare beneficiary filled prescriptions for 2,330 pills of oxycodone, hydromorphone and morphine in a single month last year — written by just one of the 42 health providers who prescribed the person such drugs.

In Illinois, a different Medicare enrollee received 73 prescriptions for opioid drugs from 11 prescribers and filled them at 20 different pharmacies. He sometimes filled prescriptions at multiple pharmacies on the same day.

These are among the examples cited in a sobering new report released today by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The IG found that heavy painkiller use and abuse remains a serious problem in Medicare's prescription drug program, known as Part D, which serves more than 43 million seniors and disabled people.

More ...

https://www.propublica.org/article/extreme-use-of-painkillers-and-doctor-shopping-plague-medicare

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The weird power of the placebo effect, explained - Vox

Over the last several years, doctors noticed a mystifying trend: Fewer and fewer new pain drugs were getting through double-blind placebo control trials, the gold standard for testing a drug's effectiveness.

In these trials, neither doctors nor patients know who is on the active drug and who is taking an inert pill. At the end of the trial, the two groups are compared. If those who actually took the drug report significantly greater improvement than those on placebo, then it's worth prescribing.

When researchers started looking closely at pain-drug clinical trials, they found that an average of 27 percent of patients in 1996 reported pain reduction from a new drug compared to placebo. In 2013, it was 9 percent.

More ...

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/7/7/15792188/placebo-effect-explained

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Bring On the Exercise, Hold the Painkillers - The New York Times

Taking ibuprofen and related over-the-counter painkillers could have unintended and worrisome consequences for people who vigorously exercise. These popular medicines, known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, work by suppressing inflammation. But according to two new studies, in the process they potentially may also overtax the kidneys during prolonged exercise and reduce muscles' ability to recover afterward.

Anyone who spends time around people who exercise knows that painkiller use is common among them. Some athletes joke about taking "vitamin I," or ibuprofen, to blunt the pain of strenuous training and competitions. Others rely on naproxen or other NSAIDs to make hard exercise more tolerable.

NSAID use is especially widespread among athletes in strenuous endurance sports like marathon and ultramarathon running. By some estimates, as many as 75 percent of long-distance runners take ibuprofen or other NSAIDs before, during or after training and races.

But in recent years, there have been hints that NSAIDs might not have the effects in athletes that they anticipate. Some studies have found that those who take the painkillers experience just as much muscle soreness as those who do not.

A few case studies also have suggested that NSAIDs might contribute to kidney problems in endurance athletes, and it was this possibility that caught the attention of Dr. Grant S. Lipman, a clinical associate professor of medicine at Stanford University and the medical director for several ultramarathons.

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https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/05/well/move/bring-on-the-exercise-hold-the-painkillers.html?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The opioid crisis changed how doctors think about pain - Vox

WILLIAMSON, West Virginia — This town on the eastern border of Kentucky has 3,150 residents, one hotel, one gas station, one fire station — and about 50 opiate overdoses each month.

On the first weekend of each month, when public benefits like disability get paid out, the local fire chief estimates the city sees about half a million dollars in drug sales. The area is poor — 29 percent of county residents live in poverty, and, amid the retreat of the coal industry, the unemployment rate was 12.2 percent when I visited last August— and those selling pills are not always who you'd expect.

"Elderly folks who depend on blood pressure medications, who can't afford them, they're selling their [painkillers] to get money to buy their blood pressure drug," Williamson fire chief Joey Carey told me when I visited Williamson. "The opioids are still $5 or $10 copays. They can turn around and sell those pills for $5 or $10 each."

Opioids are everywhere in Williamson, because chronic pain is everywhere in Williamson.

Dino Beckett opened a primary care clinic there in March 2014, on the same street with the hotel and the gas station. A native of the area with a close-cropped beard and a slight Southern drawl, Beckett sees the pain of Williamson day in and day out.

He sees older women who suffer from compression fractures up and down their spines, the result of osteoporosis. He sees men who mined coal for decades, who now experience persistent, piercing low back pain. "We have a population that works in coal mines or mine-supporting industries doing lots of manual labor, lifting equipment," he says. "Doing that for 10 to 12 hours a day for 15 to 20 years, or more, is a bad deal."

Beckett sees more pain than doctors who practice elsewhere. Nationally, 10.1 percent of Americans rate their health as "fair" or "poor." In Mingo County, where Williamson is, that figure stands at 38.9 percent.

Williamson has some of West Virginia's highest rates of obesity, disability, and arthritis — and that is in a state that already ranks among the worst in those categories compared with the rest of the nation. An adult in Williamson has twice the chance of dying from an injury as the average American.

This is why the opioid crisis is so hard to handle, here and in so many communities: The underlying drugs are often being prescribed for real reasons.

More ...

https://www.vox.com/2017/6/5/15111936/opioid-crisis-pain-west-virginia

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Neurobiology of Pain - Journal - Elsevier

Neurobiology of Pain is an international journal for the publication of basic and translational research on the mechanisms of acute and chronic pain. It focuses on experimental studies of pain mechanisms at every level from molecular and cellular to brain imaging and behavioural. The journal primarily publishes original basic and translational studies, but will consider clinical studies which address mechanistic aspects of pain based on experimental approaches in human subjects.


The scope of the journal addresses all areas of pain neurobiology, including:

  • Molecular substrates and cell signaling
  • Genetics and epigenetics
  • Spinal and brain circuitry
  • Structural and physiological plasticity
  • Developmental aspects
  • Laboratory models of pain
  • Brain imaging
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Pain and cognition
  • Pain and emotion

https://www.journals.elsevier.com/neurobiology-of-pain/

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Your mind can be trained to control chronic pain. But it will cost you - STAT

There was plenty to blame: the car wreck that broke his back. The job pouring concrete that shattered his spine a second time. The way he tore up his insides with cigarettes, booze, cocaine, and opioids.

It all amounted to this: Carl White was in pain. All the time. And nothing helped — not the multiple surgeries, nor the self-medication, not the wife and daughter who supported him and relied on him.

Then White enrolled in a pain management clinic that taught him some of his physical torment was in his head — and he could train his brain to control it. It's a philosophy that dates back decades, to the 1970s or even earlier. It fell out of vogue when new generations of potent pain pills came on the market; they were cheaper, worked faster, felt more modern.

But the opioid epidemic has soured many patients and doctors on the quick fix. And interest is again surging in a treatment method called biopsychosocial pain management, which trains patients to manage chronic pain with tools ranging from physical therapy to biofeedback to meditation. It helped Carl White, a 43-year-old social worker from Leroy, Minn.

The catch? It can take weeks and cost tens of thousands of dollars — and thus remains out of reach for most patients with chronic pain.

"We've been banging our heads on the wall, and banging our fists on the door, trying to get insurers to pay for this," said Dr. Bob Twillman, executive director for the Academy of Integrative Pain Management. "For the most part, they will not."

Chronic pain affects nearly 50 million Americans, according to the American Pain Foundation. The largest drivers include migraines, arthritis, and nerve damage — but in many cases, emotional trauma also contributes to the sense of misery.

"We have a lot of people in this country who are unhappy, isolated, and hurting," said Jeannie Sperry, a psychologist who co-chairs the division of addictions, transplant, and pain at Mayo Clinic. "Depression hurts. Anxiety hurts. It's rare for people to have chronic pain without one of these co-morbidities."

Indeed, chronic pain has a substantial psychological element: Being in pain often leads to self-imposed isolation. That loss of a social network then leads to anxiety, depression, and a tendency to catastrophize the pain — so that it's all a patient can think about.

More …

https://www.statnews.com/2017/05/30/chronic-pain-management/

NIH Releases Federal Pain Research Strategy Draft Research Priorities - American Society of Anesthesiologists

On May 25, the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC) and the Office of Pain Policy of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released draft Federal Pain Research Priorities, which were presented and discussed at a forum and public comment period on June 1. The forum immediately followed the Annual NIH Pain Consortium Symposium, where presentations highlighted multidisciplinary strategies for the management of pain. Following the open public comment period, written comments will be accepted until June 6.

The Federal Pain Research Strategy (FPRS) is an effort to oversee development of a long-term strategic plan for pain research. This is especially important, as most analgesics and anesthetics are used, despite known side effects and no new pharmacologic treatments for pain have emerged in recent years. The draft priorities acknowledge this and encompass this as one of the priorities, stating, "Given the adverse effects, risks of tolerance, dependence, and addiction, associated with opioids, new safer and more effective pharmacologic and non‐pharmacologic approaches for pain management are needed."  ASA is pleased to see this as a focus, as chronic pain effects millions of Americans and the ongoing struggle to address the opioid epidemic persists.

The draft research priorities are a culmination of a diverse and balanced group of scientific experts, patient advocates, and federal representatives working together for nearly two years to identify and prioritize research recommendations. The process included a steering committee to report back to the broader IPRCC and five workgroups based around the continuum of pain: prevention of acute and chronic and pain; acute pain and acute pain management; transition from acute to chronic pain; chronic pain and chronic pain management; and disparities. The workgroups identified research priorities within their respective areas and together, in the areas where there was overlap, developed cross-cutting research priorities to incorporate their recommendations.

ASA members Steve Cohen, M.D. and David Clark, M.D. were part of the chronic pain and chronic pain management workgroup and were involved in developing research priorities to answer questions about the gaps in understanding around the mechanisms of chronic pain, effective treatments and self-management strategies.

The cross-cutting research priorities fall into these broader areas of research:

• Novel drugs and non-pharmacological treatments for pain
• Screening tools and outcome measures for assessments across the continuum of pain
• National registries, datasets and research networks
• Effective models of care delivery for pain management
• Precision medicine methodology to prevent and treat pain

More ... 

http://asahq.org/advocacy/fda-and-washington-alerts/washington-alerts/2017/06/nih-releases-federal-pain-research-strategy-draft-research-priorities

Document:

Monday, May 29, 2017

The opioid epidemic could be cured with virtual-reality worlds that let patients escape their pain — Quartz

"It's like a crawly feeling inside," says Judy*. "You get hot, then chilled, and you feel like you want to run away." The 57-year-old has short dark-grey hair and a haunted expression. She's breathless and sits with her right leg balanced up on her walking stick, rocking it back and forth as she speaks.

Judy explains that she suffers from constant, debilitating pain: arthritis, back problems, fibromyalgia and daily migraines. She was a manager at a major electronics company until 2008, but can no longer work. She often hurts too much even to make it out of bed.

She's taking around 20 different medications each day, including painkillers, antidepressants, sedatives and a skin patch containing a high dose of the opioid drug fentanyl, which she says did not significantly help her pain and which she's now trying to come off. Her physician has been tapering the dose for months, so in addition to her pain she suffers withdrawal symptoms: the chills and crawling dread. Then her clinic announced that it would no longer prescribe any opioids at all, the unintended result of new, stricter measures aimed at clamping down on opioid abuse. Faced with losing access to the drug on which she is physically dependent, she has come to another clinic, Pain Consultants of East Tennessee (PCET) in Knoxville, desperate for help.

Ted Jones, the attending clinician, calls patients like Judy "refugees". He says that he sees "tons" of similar cases. Over 100 million Americans suffer long-term pain. Now they find themselves at the epicentre of two colliding health catastrophes in the USA: chronic pain and opioid abuse.

More ...

https://qz.com/973605/the-opioid-epidemic-could-be-cured-with-virtual-reality-worlds-that-let-patients-escape-their-pain/

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Federal Pain Research Strategy - NIH

The Federal Pain Research Strategy is an effort of the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee and the Office of Pain Policy of the National Institutes of Health to oversee development of a long-term strategic plan for those federal agencies and departments that support pain research. A diverse and balanced group of scientific experts, patient advocates, and federal representatives identified and prioritized research recommendations as a basis for this long-term strategic plan to coordinate and advance the federal pain research agenda. The key areas of prevention of acute and chronic pain, acute pain and acute pain management, the transition from acute to chronic pain, chronic pain and chronic pain management, and disparities in pain and pain care provided the framework for development of the strategy. In addition, a set of cross-cutting research priorities were identified by the task force in topic areas for which similar research recommendations were developed across multiples work groups and merged. 

https://iprcc.nih.gov/docs/DraftFederalPainResearchStrategy.pdf

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Even short-term opioid use can set people up for addiction risks | Science News

Even though a sprained ankle rarely needs an opioid, a new study of emergency room patients found that about 7 percent of patients got sent home with a prescription for the potentially addictive painkiller anyway. And the more pills prescribed, the greater the chance the prescription would be refilled, raising concerns about continued use.

The research adds to evidence that it's hard for some people to stop taking the pills even after a brief use. State officials in New Jersey recently enacted a law limiting first-time prescriptions to a five-day supply, and other states should consider similar restrictions, says Kit Delgado, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania.

"The bottom line is that we need to do our best not to expose people to opioids," Delgado says. "And if we do, start with the smallest quantity possible." The research was presented May 17 at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine's annual meeting in Orlando.

Previous research has found that the more opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone are prescribed, the more likely patients are to keep taking them. But previous studies have been too broad to account for differences in diagnoses — for instance, whether people who received refills kept taking the drug simply because they still were in pain, Delgado says. He and colleagues limited their study to prescriptions written after ankle sprains to people who had not used an opioid in the previous six months. Usually, those injuries aren't serious and don't require opioids.

About 7 percent of 53,222 people who visited ERs with ankle sprains in 2011 and 2012 were sent home with an opioid prescription, the researchers found. Patients' experiences varied by state: Less than 2 percent treated in Delaware were prescribed an opioid compared with 16 percent in Mississippi.

The number of pills obtained within a week of those visits also varied greatly, from as few as five to more than 60. Typical prescriptions were for 15 to 40 pills. Those who received prescriptions for 30 pills or more were twice as likely to get refills as those with prescriptions for 15 or fewer, Delgado and colleagues found.

"Because these are patients who have a uniformly minor injury, it emphasizes how much arbitrariness there is in how physicians prescribe opioids," says Michael Barnett, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who was not involved in the study.

More ...

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/minor-injury-opioid-painkiller-addiction-risks?tgt=nr

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Pain in Animals Workshop 2017 – Creating a Research Roadmap for measuring chronic pain in dogs and cats

Despite recent advances, chronic pain is one of the most poorly understood, under diagnosed, and under treated medical problems facing veterinary medicine today. One of the most frustrating parts of chronic pain therapeutic development in veterinary medicine is the lack of validated methods to measure chronic pain in different species and diseases.

In parallel, translational success has come under the spotlight. Numerous reviews have highlighted a lack of translation of basic research into new approved therapeutics for treatment of persistent pain in humans. The use of spontaneous painful disease in companion animals has been highlighted as one of the changes that could be made to help improve translation of basic science to new therapeutics, acting as a bridge between preclinical and clinical studies, with the goal of reducing the failure rates of human clinical trials, thus accelerating the approval of new therapeutics. Aspects that will undermine the utility of the 'spontaneous disease pain' model are the lack of valid outcome measures and the lack of knowledge of opportunities.

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https://paw2017.com/

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The ACTTION–APS–AAPM Pain Taxonomy (AAAPT) Multidimensional Approach to Classifying Acute Pain Conditions - The Journal of Pain

As a complement to a taxonomy recently developed for chronic pain, the ACTTION public-private partnership with the US Food and Drug Administration, the APS, and the AAPM convened a consensus meeting of experts to develop an acute pain taxonomy using prevailing evidence. Key issues pertaining to the distinct nature of acute pain are presented followed by the agreed-upon taxonomy. The ACTTION-APS-AAPM Acute Pain Taxonomy will include the following dimensions: 1) core criteria, 2) common features, 3) modulating factors, 4) impact/functional consequences, and 5) putative pathophysiologic pain mechanisms. Future efforts will consist of working groups utilizing this taxonomy to develop diagnostic criteria for a comprehensive set of acute pain conditions.

http://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(17)30464-9/fulltext?

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The opioid epidemic could be cured with virtual-reality worlds that let patients escape their pain — Quartz

"It's like a crawly feeling inside," says Judy*. "You get hot, then chilled, and you feel like you want to run away." The 57-year-old has short dark-grey hair and a haunted expression. She's breathless and sits with her right leg balanced up on her walking stick, rocking it back and forth as she speaks.
Judy explains that she suffers from constant, debilitating pain: arthritis, back problems, fibromyalgia and daily migraines. She was a manager at a major electronics company until 2008, but can no longer work. She often hurts too much even to make it out of bed.
She's taking around 20 different medications each day, including painkillers, antidepressants, sedatives and a skin patch containing a high dose of the opioid drug fentanyl, which she says did not significantly help her pain and which she's now trying to come off. Her physician has been tapering the dose for months, so in addition to her pain she suffers withdrawal symptoms: the chills and crawling dread. Then her clinic announced that it would no longer prescribe any opioids at all, the unintended result of new, stricter measures aimed at clamping down on opioid abuse. Faced with losing access to the drug on which she is physically dependent, she has come to another clinic, Pain Consultants of East Tennessee (PCET) in Knoxville, desperate for help.
More ...
https://qz.com/973605/the-opioid-epidemic-could-be-cured-with-virtual-reality-worlds-that-let-patients-escape-their-pain/?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

How a Single Gene Could Become a Volume Knob for Pain—and End America's Opioid Epidemic | WIRED

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your pain? Would you say it aches, or would you say it stabs? Does it burn, or does it pinch? How long would you say you've been hurting? And are you taking anything for it?

Steven Pete has no idea how you feel. Sitting in Cassava, a café in Longview, Washington, next to a bulletin board crammed with flyers and promises—your pain-free tomorrow starts today; remember: you're not alone in your battle against peripheral neuropathy!—he tells me he cannot fathom aches or pinches or the searing scourge of peripheral neuropathy that keep millions of people awake at night or hooked on pills. He was born with a rare neurological condition called congenital insensitivity to pain, and for 36 years he has hovered at or near a 1 on the pain scale. He's 5′ 8″, with glasses and thinning brown hair, and he has a road map of scars across his body, mostly hidden beneath a T-shirt bearing the partial crests of Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Superman. Because he never learned to avoid injury, which is the one thing pain is really good for, he gets injured a lot. When I ask how many bones he's broken, he lets out a quick laugh.

"Oh gosh. I haven't actually done the count yet," he says. "But somewhere probably around 70 or 80." With each fracture, he didn't feel much of anything—or even notice his injury at all. Whether he saw a doctor depended on how bad the break appeared to be. "A toe or a finger, I'd just take care of that myself," he says, wagging a slightly bent index finger. "Duct tape."

What about something more serious? Pete pauses for a moment and recalls a white Washington day a few years ago. "We had thick snow, and we went inner-tubing down a hill. Well, I did a scorpion, where you take a running start and jump on the tube. You're supposed to land on your stomach, but I hit it at the wrong angle. I face-planted on the hill, and my back legs just went straight up over my head." Pete got up and returned to tubing, and for the next eight months he went on as usual, until he started noticing the movement in his left arm and shoulder felt off. His back felt funny too. He ended up getting an MRI. "The doctor looked at my MRI results, and he was like, 'Have you been in a car accident? About six months ago? Were you skydiving?' "

"I haven't done either," Pete replied.

The doctor stared at his patient in disbelief. "You've got three fractured vertebrae." Pete had broken his back.

Throughout his body today, Pete has a strange feeling: "a weird radiating sensation," as he describes it, an overall discomfort but not quite pain as you and I know it. He and others born with his condition have been compared to superheroes—indomitable, unbreakable. In his basement, where the shelves are lined with videogames about biologically and technologically enhanced soldiers, there is even a framed sketch of a character in full body armor, with the words painless pete. But Pete knows better. "There's no way I could live a normal life right now if I could actually feel pain," he says. He would probably be constrained to a bed or wheelchair from all the damage his body has sustained.

His wife, Jessica, joins us at the café. She is petite and shy, with ice-blue eyes traced in black eyeliner. When I ask her what it's like to live with a man who feels no pain, she sighs. "I worry about him all the time." She worries about him working with his power tools in the basement. She worries about him cooking over a grill. She worries about bigger things too. "If he has a heart attack, he won't be able to feel it," she says. "He'll rub his arm sometimes, and I freak out: 'Are you OK?' " She looks over at Pete, who chuckles. "He thinks it's funny," she says. "I don't think it's funny."

More ...

https://www.wired.com/2017/04/the-cure-for-pain/?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

In pain? Many doctors say opioids are not the answer - Salon.com

Those of you who have experienced pain, especially gnawing, chronic pain, know that it affects your happiness, outlook and ability to function.

In the past couple of years, the treatment of chronic pain has undergone an earthshaking transformation as opioid addiction continues to claim — and ruin — lives.

Many primary care doctors no longer liberally prescribe opioid painkillers such as oxycodone, fentanyl and hydrocodone for back pain, migraines and other chronic conditions. Instead, they are increasingly turning to alternative medications and non-drug options such as acupuncture and physical therapy.

"Most primary care doctors are afraid to do pain management because of the opioid backlash," says Michael McClelland, a health care attorney in Rocklin, Calif., and former chief of enforcement for the state Department of Managed Health Care. "Either they don't prescribe anything, and the patient remains in pain, or they turn them over to pain management specialists so someone else is writing that prescription."

As a result, McClelland says, "people in genuine pain are going to find it more difficult to get medicine they may well need."

More ...

http://www.salon.com/2017/04/16/in-pain-many-doctors-say-opioids-are-not-the-answer_partner/

Thursday, March 30, 2017

How the opioid epidemic became America’s worst drug crisis ever, in 15 maps and charts - Vox

With all the other news going on, it can be easy to lose track of this fact. But it's true: In 2015, more than 52,000 people died of drug overdoses, nearly two-thirds of which were linked to opioids like Percocet, OxyContin, heroin, and fentanyl. That's more drug overdose deaths than any other period in US history — even more than past heroin epidemics, the crack epidemic, or the recent meth epidemic. And the preliminary data we have from 2016 suggests that the epidemic may have gotten worse since 2015.

This situation did not develop overnight, but it has quickly become one of the biggest public health crises facing America. To understand how and why, I've put together a series of maps and charts that show the key elements of the epidemic — from its start through legalpainkillers prescribed in droves by doctors to the recent rise of the highly potent opioid fentanyl.

More ...

http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/3/23/14987892/opioid-heroin-epidemic-charts

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Chronic pain and depression are linked by brain gene changes | New Scientist

People who have chronic pain are more likely to experience mood disorders, but it's not clear how this happens. Now a study in mice has found that chronic pain can induce genetic changes in brain regions that are linked to depression and anxiety, a finding that may lead to new treatments for pain.

"At least 40 per cent of patients who suffer from severe forms of chronic pain also develop depression at some point, along with other cognitive problems," says Venetia Zachariou of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

To see if there might be a genetic link between these conditions, Zachariou and her team studied mice with damage to their peripheral nervous system. These mice show symptoms similar to chronic pain in people – they become hypersensitive to harmless touch, and avoid other situations that might also cause them pain.

Until now, pain behaviour in mice had only been studied for at most a week at a time, says Zachariou, whose team monitored their mice for 10 weeks. "At the beginning, we saw only sensory deficits and pain-like symptoms. But several weeks later, the animals developed anxiety and depression-like behaviours."

The team then examined gene activity in three regions in the mouse brains we know are associated with depression and anxiety. Analysing the nucleus accumbens, medial prefrontal cortex, and periaqueductal gray, they found nearly 40 genes where activity was significantly higher or lower than in mice without the nervous system damage.

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https://www.newscientist.com/article/2125680-chronic-pain-and-depression-are-linked-by-brain-gene-changes/

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rapid Shift to Long-term Opioid Use After Initial Prescription - Medscape

For patients who need an initial opioid prescription, supplying 3 or fewer days' worth of medication reduces the likelihood of long-term opioid use, new data show.

In a large representative sample of opioid-naive, cancer-free adults who received a first prescription for opioid pain relievers, the likelihood of long-term opioid use increased with each additional day of medication supplied, starting with the third day, the study team found.

"Knowledge that the risks for chronic opioid use increase with each additional day supplied might help clinicians evaluate their initial opioid prescribing decisions and potentially reduce the risk for long-term opioid use," the authors, led by Bradley Martin, PharmD, PhD, at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, write.

"Discussions with patients about the long-term use of opioids to manage pain should occur early in the opioid prescribing process," they advise in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of March 17.

More ...

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/877354

Friday, March 03, 2017

NYTimes: How to Block Out Pain

Pain is a personal experience, and success comes from self-management," says David Tauben, clinical professor in the department of pain medicine at the University of Washington. Respond to pain calmly — worry and fear activate the neural pathways through which pain travels and can amplify the sensations that cause it in the first place. Because pain has both mental and physical components, some researchers who study it combine psychology with the physical effects. "Be careful of negative thoughts and worrying," Tauben says. "If it's difficult to control them, find a professional to help you, like a psychologist or counselor."


More ...


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Is a new class of painkillers on the horizon? | Science | AAAS

Scientists are chasing a new lead on a class of drugs that may one day fight both pain and opioid addiction. It's still early days, but researchers report that they've discovered a new small molecule that binds selectively to a long-targeted enzyme, halting its role in pain and addiction while not interfering with enzymes critical to healthy cell function. The newly discovered compound isn't likely to become a medicine any time soon. But it could jumpstart the search for other binders that could do the job.

Pain and addiction have many biochemical roots, which makes it difficult to treat them without affecting other critical functions in cells. Today, the most potent painkillers are opioids, including heroin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. In addition to interrupting pain, they inhibit enzymes known as adenylyl cyclases (ACs) that convert cells' energy currency, ATP, into a molecule involved in intracellular chemical communication known as cyclic AMP (cAMP). Chronic opioid use can make cells increase the activity of ACs to compensate, causing cAMP levels to skyrocket. When opioid users try to stop using, their cAMP levels remain high, and drugs that reduce those levels—like buprenorphine—have unwanted side effects.

More...

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/02/new-class-painkillers-horizon

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

NYTimes: Lower Back Ache? Be Active and Wait It Out, New Guidelines Say

Dr. James Weinstein, a back pain specialist and chief executive of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System, has some advice for most people with lower back pain: Take two aspirin and don't call me in the morning.

On Monday, the American College of Physicians published updated guidelines that say much the same. In making the new recommendations for the treatment of most people with lower back pain, the group is bucking what many doctors do and changing its previous guidelines, which called for medication as first-line therapy.

Dr. Nitin Damle, president of the group's board of regents and a practicing internist, said pills, even over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, should not be the first choice. "We need to look at therapies that are nonpharmacological first," he said. "That is a change."

More ...

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/13/health/lower-back-pain-surgery-guidelines.html?

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Welcome to Pain Researcher

Welcome to Pain Researcher, a community forum for anyone involved or interested in the study of pain. 

The major purpose of this forum is to facilitate discussion around any and all topics related to the pain research. One important gap that this forum aims to fill involves the sharing of knowledge needed to properly execute pain studies such as detailed protocols, technical tips, tool development, methodological considerations, etc. It is these crucial details that determine the quality and validity of the findings of pain studies, and so we hope that giving a space to discuss such details will improve pain research globally.

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http://forum.painresearcher.net/t/welcome-to-pain-researcher/8

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Bright Future for Brain Imaging of Pain | Pain Research Forum

Irene Tracey, University of Oxford, UK, summarized the contributions of neuroimaging to pain research, and directions for future investigations, during "Translating Neuroimaging Discovery Science for Patient Benefit," a plenary lecture held at the IASP 16th World Congress on Pain, which took place September 26-30, 2016, in Yokohama, Japan. Her take-home message was that findings from neuroimaging will lead to a brighter outlook for patients suffering from chronic pain. "The aim, ultimately, is to use metrics [discovered by imaging studies] to guide diagnosis and therapies," she said. Tracey called for neuroimaging work to help bridge scientific knowledge from cells to systems and across species in order to meet the unmet clinical need for new pain treatments.

More...

http://painresearchforum.org/news/76295-bright-future-brain-imaging-pain

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I’ve seen the opioid epidemic as a cop. Living it as a patient has been even worse. - The Washington Post

A year ago, I woke in the night with pain so severe I was crying before I was fully aware what was going on. A 50-year-old cop sobbed like a child in the dark.

It was a ruptured disc and related nerve damage. Within a couple of months, it became so severe that I could no longer walk or stand. An MRI later, my surgeon soothingly told me it would all be okay. He would take care of me; the pain would end.

After surgery, I never saw that surgeon again. A nurse practitioner handed me a prescription for painkillers — 180 tablets, 90 each of oxycodone and hydrocodone.

I was lucky: I already knew how easily opioid addiction could destroy a life. I'd arrested addicts and helped people suffering from substance abuse. So as soon as I could, I weaned myself off the medication. Still, I fell into the trap when my pain returned months later, and I started taking the pills again.

Since then, I've been stuck like a growing number of people in a system that leaves patients beholden to terrible health policy, the horrific consequences of federal drug policy, uninformed media hysteria about an opioid epidemic and an army of uncoordinated medical professionals bearing — then seizing — bottles of pills.

I asked repeatedly for alternatives, but I was told none were available. I started physical therapy and sought treatment at an authorized pain management clinic. My first pain management doctor was terse as she prescribed more hydrocodone for daytime and oxycodone for the night, when my pain was worse. To her, I was just another person in a day of people receiving identical treatment. Later she'd say she had little choice: Insurance companies routinely deny even slightly adventurous prescriptions.

A nearby chain pharmacy refused to fill it, saying, "You can't mix hydrocodone and oxycodone." As my prescription testified, I was receiving the required "close monitoring" by a doctor when taking that particular combination. When I called the pain clinic for help, the staff berated me for bothering them. They asked whether I was seeking drugs. I was — the ones they had prescribed.

More ...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/01/11/ive-seen-the-opioid-epidemic-as-a-cop-living-it-as-a-patient-has-been-even-worse/?

How much does it hurt? | Mosaic

One night in May, my wife sat up in bed and said, "I've got this awful pain just here." She prodded her abdomen and made a face. "It feels like something's really wrong." Woozily noting that it was 2am, I asked what kind of pain it was. "Like something's biting into me and won't stop," she said.

"Hold on," I said blearily, "help is at hand." I brought her a couple of ibuprofen with some water, which she downed, clutching my hand and waiting for the ache to subside.

An hour later, she was sitting up in bed again, in real distress. "It's worse now," she said, "really nasty. Can you phone the doctor?" Miraculously, the family doctor answered the phone at 3am, listened to her recital of symptoms and concluded, "It might be your appendix. Have you had yours taken out?" No, she hadn't. "It could be appendicitis," he surmised, "but if it was dangerous you'd be in much worse pain than you're in. Go to the hospital in the morning, but for now, take some paracetamol and try to sleep."

Barely half an hour later, the balloon went up. She was awakened for the third time, but now with a pain so savage and uncontainable it made her howl like a tortured witch face down on a bonfire. The time for murmured assurances and spousal procrastination was over. I rang a local minicab, struggled into my clothes, bundled her into a dressing gown, and we sped to St Mary's Paddington at just before 4am.

The flurry of action made the pain subside, if only through distraction, and we sat for hours while doctors brought forms to be filled, took her blood pressure and ran tests. A registrar poked a needle into my wife's wrist and said, "Does that hurt? Does that? How about that?" before concluding: "Impressive. You have a very high pain threshold."

More ...

https://mosaicscience.com/story/how-much-does-it-hurt-pain-agony-acute-chronic?

Friday, January 06, 2017

Snapshots of an Epidemic: A Look at the Opioid Crisis Across the Country - The New York Times

Opioid addiction is America's 50-state epidemic. It courses along Interstate highways in the form of cheap smuggled heroin, and flows out of "pill mill" clinics where pain medicine is handed out like candy. It has ripped through New England towns, where people overdose in the aisles of dollar stores, and it has ravaged coal country, where addicts speed-dial the sole doctor in town licensed to prescribe a medication.

Public health officials have called the current opioid epidemic the worst drug crisis in American history, killing more than 33,000 people in 2015. Overdose deaths were nearly equal to the number of deaths from car crashes. In 2015, for the first time, deaths from heroin alone surpassed gun homicides.

More ...

http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/06/us/opioid-crisis-epidemic.html?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How scientists are hunting for a safer opioid painkiller | Science News

An opioid epidemic is upon us. Prescription painkillers such as fentanyl and morphine can ease terrible pain, but they can also cause addiction and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 2 million Americans are abusing or addicted to prescription opiates. Politicians are attempting to stem the tide at state and national levels, with bills to change and monitor how physicians prescribe painkillers and to increase access to addiction treatment programs.

Those efforts may make access to painkillers more difficult for some. But pain comes to everyone eventually, and opioids are one of the best ways to make it go away.  

Morphine is the king of pain treatment. "For hundreds of years people have used morphine," says Lakshmi Devi, a pharmacologist at the Ichan School of Medicine Mount Sinai in New York City.  "It works, it's a good drug, that's why we want it. The problem is the bad stuff."

More ...

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Pain News Network

Pain News Network is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, independent online news source for information and commentary about chronic pain and pain management. Our mission is to raise awareness about chronic pain, and to connect and educate pain sufferers, caregivers, healthcare providers and the public about the pain experience. We reach over 100,000 people (unique readers) each month.

https://www.painnewsnetwork.org/

An opioid epidemic is what happens when pain is treated only with pills - The Washington Post

Too many opioids. Not enough opioids. Behold the opioid paradox.

The United States is in the midst of a massive opioid epidemic, as The Washington Post and other news organizations have documented extensively. In 2015, more than 33,000 people died from overdoses of opioids, meaning prescription painkillers, heroin, fentanyl or any combination. That easily keeps pace here with fatal motor vehicle accidents and gun-related deaths.

Certain states have been particularly affected. The Charleston Gazette just reported that opioid wholesalers shipped 780 million oxycodone and hydrocodone pills into West Virginia over a six-year period — enough for 433 pills for every person in the state. Meanwhile, 1,728 West Virginians died from overdoses of those two drugs.

But there's another side to the story. Opioids can be an effective treatment for chronic pain, and too many people around the world have limited access to them.

"We view pain relief as a human rights issue," Kathleen Foley, a neurologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said at a Princeton symposium on pain and opioids this month. Historically, she said, pain has been under-treated, and she is concerned that the opioid epidemic "has stigmatized all patients with pain."

Even in this country, some patients may be denied opioids because doctors are not convinced their described pain is real or fear the pills will be diverted to the illegal market. Keith Wailoo, a Princeton historian of medicine and health policy, who also spoke at the symposium, calls it a "pain gap" and says it is why African Americans with sickle cell disease, for example, have reported trouble getting prescription painkillers. "Think of it as a pain gap between the haves and the have-nots, along lines of class and race," Wailoo wrote in the Daily Beast.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/12/23/an-opioid-epidemic-is-what-happens-when-pain-is-treated-only-with-pills/?tid=sm_tw&utm_term=.fb49c82e397d

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Brain's Support Cells Could Explain Mysterious "Spreading Pain" - Scientific American

In people who suffer from pain disorders, painful feelings can severely worsen and spread to other regions of the body. Patients who develop chronic pain after surgery, for example, will often feel it coming from the area surrounding the initial injury and even in some parts of the body far from where it originates. New evidence suggests glia, non-neuronal cells in the brain, may be the culprits behind this effect.

Glia were once thought to simply be passive, supporting cells for neurons. But scientists now know they are involved in everything from metabolism to neurodegeneration. A growing body of evidence points to their key role in pain. In a study published today in Science, researchers at the Medical University of Vienna report that glia are involved in long-term potentiation (LTP), or the strengthening of synapses, in pain pathways in the spinal cord.

Neuroscientists Timothy Bliss and Terje Lømo first described LTP in the hippocampus, a brain area involved in memory, in the 1970s. Since then scientists have been meticulously studying the role this type of synaptic plasticity—the ability of synapses to change in strength—plays in learning and memory. More recently, researchers discovered that LTP could also amplify pain in areas where injuries or inflammation occur. "We sometimes call this a 'memory trace of pain' because the painful insult may lead to subsequent hypersensitivity to painful stimuli, and it was clear that synaptic plasticity can play a role here," says study co-author Jürgen Sandkühler, a neuroscientist also at the Medical University of Vienna. But current models of how LTP works could not explain why discomfort sometimes becomes widespread or experienced in areas a person has never felt it before, he adds.

More ...

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/brain-rsquo-s-support-cells-could-explain-mysterious-ldquo-spreading-pain-rdquo/

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A New Study Tests Marijuana's Potential to Replace Opioid Painkillers - The Atlantic

Emily Lindley's stash of marijuana is going to be very, very secure.

Lindley, a neurobiologist, is about to begin the first study ever to directly compare cannabis with an opioid painkiller (in this case, oxycodone) for treating people with chronic pain. She got a grant for this research two years ago, but it has taken that much time to meet all the requirements for working with a drug the federal government still considers highly dangerous.

Before it's given to patients, the marijuana will be kept inside steel narcotics lockers bolted to the wall in a room with surveillance cameras and a combination keypad on the door. Each locker has tamper-proof hinges and requires two keys—each held by a different person. If someone puts the wrong key in one of the locks, it will become inoperable and have to be drilled out.

All this is necessary to comply with rules imposed by the Drug Enforcement Agency to make sure drugs meant for research don't end up on the street, says Heike Newman, a senior regulatory manager at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus, where Lindley's study will take place. Newman's job is to help researchers with the paperwork they need to file with various government agencies to get approval for their studies. She says the lockers and renovations to the storage room cost the university about $15,000.

More ...

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/11/a-new-test-of-pots-potential-to-replace-painkillers/507200/?

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Why painkillers sometimes make the pain worse | Science | AAAS

Mark Hutchinson could read the anguish on the participants' faces in seconds. As a graduate student at the University of Adelaide in Australia in the late 1990s, he helped with studies in which people taking methadone to treat opioid addiction tested their pain tolerance by dunking a forearm in ice water. Healthy controls typically managed to stand the cold for roughly a minute. Hutchinson himself, "the young, cocky, Aussie bloke chucking my arm in the water," lasted more than 2 minutes. But the methadone patients averaged only about 15 seconds.

"These aren't wimps. These people are injecting all sorts of crazy crap into their arms. … But they were finding this excruciating," Hutchinson says. "It just fascinated me." The participants were taking enormous doses of narcotics. How could they experience such exaggerated pain?

The experiment was Hutchinson's first encounter with a perplexing phenomenon called opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). At high doses, opioid painkillers actually seem to amplify pain by changing signaling in the central nervous system, making the body generally more sensitive to painful stimuli. "Just imagine if all the diabetic medications, instead of decreasing blood sugar, increased blood sugar," says Jianren Mao, a physician and pain researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston who has studied hyperalgesia in rodents and people for more than 20 years.

But how prevalent hyperalgesia is, and whether it plays a role in the U.S. epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose, is unclear. A lack of reliable testing methods and a series of contradictory papers have created believers and skeptics. A few researchers, like Mao, think hyperalgesia is an underappreciated puzzle piece in the opioid epidemic—a force that can pile on pain, drive up doses, and make it harder for chronic users to come off their drugs. Some of those researchers are looking for ways to turn down hyperalgesia, to help patients function on lower doses of their oxycodone, for example, or make it easier to taper off it altogether. Others see OIH as an oddity in the literature—real, and a powerful clue to the workings of pain pathways, but unlikely to tighten the grip of opioids on most patients. Hutchinson thinks the majority of physicians are either unaware of hyperalgesia or unconvinced of its importance. "I think if you surveyed prescribers of opioids, they would be divided probably 60–40."

More ...

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/11/why-painkillers-sometimes-make-pain-worse

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Placebos Can Work Even If You Know It's A Placebo : Shots - Health News : NPR

Placebos can't cure diseases, but research suggests that they seem to bring some people relief from subjective symptoms, such as pain, nausea, anxiety and fatigue.

But there's a reason your doctor isn't giving you a sugar pill and telling you it's a new wonder drug. The thinking has been that you need to actually believe that you're taking a real drug in order to see any benefits. And a doctor intentionally deceiving a patient is an ethical no-no.

So placebos have pretty much been tossed in the "garbage pail" of clinical practice, says Ted Kaptchuk, director of the Program for Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. In an attempt to make them more useful, he's been studying whether people might see a benefit from a placebo even if they knew it was a placebo, with no active ingredients. An earlier study found that so-called "open-label" or "honest" placebos improved symptoms among people with irritable bowel syndrome.

And Kaptchuk and his colleagues found the same effect among people with garden-variety lower back pain, the most common kind of pain reported by American adults.

The study included 83 people in Portugal, all of whom had back pain that wasn't caused by cancer, fractures, infections or other serious conditions. All the participants were told that the placebo was an inactive substance containing no medication. They were told that the body can automatically respond to placebos, that a positive attitude can help but isn't necessary and that it was important to take the pills twice a day for the full three weeks.

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http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/10/27/499475288/is-it-still-a-placebo-when-it-works-and-you-know-its-a-placebo?

Opioids: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

https://youtu.be/5pdPrQFjo2o

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Mice smell, share each other's pain | Science News

Pain is contagious, at least for mice. After encountering bedding where mice in pain had slept, other mice became more sensitive to pain themselves. The experiment, described online October 19 in Science Advances, shows that pain can move from one animal to another — no injury or illness required.

The results "add to a growing body of research showing that animals communicate distress and are affected by the distress of others," says neuroscientist Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal of the University of California, Berkeley.

Neuroscientist Andrey Ryabinin and colleagues didn't set out to study pain transfer. But the researchers noticed something curious during their experiments on mice who were undergoing alcohol withdrawal. Mice in the throes of withdrawal have a higher sensitivity to pokes on the foot. And surprisingly, so did these mice's perfectly healthy cagemates. "We realized that there was some transfer of information about pain" from injured mouse to bystander, says Ryabinin, of Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland.

When mice suffered from alcohol withdrawal, morphine withdrawal or an inflaming injection, they become more sensitive to a poke in the paw with a thin fiber — a touchy reaction that signals a decreased pain tolerance. Mice that had been housed in the same cage with the mice in pain also grew more sensitive to the poke, Ryabinin and colleagues found. These bystander mice showed other signs of heightened pain sensitivity, such as quickly pulling their tails out of hot water and licking a paw after an irritating shot.

The results are compelling evidence for the social transmission of pain, says neuroscientist Christian Keysers of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam.

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https://www.sciencenews.org/article/mice-smell-share-each-others-pain?

Monday, October 24, 2016

How drugs intended for patients ended up in the hands of illegal users: ‘No one was doing their job’ - The Washington Post

For 10 years, the government waged a behind-the-scenes war against pharmaceutical companies that hardly anyone knows: wholesale distributors of prescription narcotics that ship drugs from manufacturers to consumers.

The Drug Enforcement Administration targeted these middlemen for a simple reason. If the agency could force the companies to police their own drug shipments, it could keep millions of pills out of the hands of abusers and dealers. That would be much more effective than fighting "diversion" of legal painkillers at each drugstore and pain clinic.

Many companies held back drugs and alerted the DEA to signs of illegal activity, as required by law. But others did not.

Collectively, 13 companies identified by The Washington Post knew or should have known that hundreds of millions of pills were ending up on the black market, according to court records, DEA documents and legal settlements in administrative ­cases, many of which are being reported here for the first time. Even when they were alerted to suspicious pain clinics or pharmacies by the DEA and their own employees, some distributors ignored the warnings and continued to send drugs.

"Through the whole supply chain, I would venture to say no one was doing their job," said Joseph T. Rannazzisi, former head of the DEA's Office of Diversion Control, who led the effort against distributors from 2005 until shortly before his retirement in 2015. "And because no one was doing their job, it just perpetuated the problem. Corporate America let their profits get in the way of public health."

A review of the DEA's campaign against distributors reveals the extent of the companies' role in the diversion of opioids. It shows how drugs intended for millions of legitimate pain patients ended up feeding illegal users' appetites for prescription narcotics. And it helps explain why there has been little progress in the U.S. opioid epidemic, despite the efforts of public-health and enforcement agencies to stop it.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/how-drugs-intended-for-patients-ended-up-in-the-hands-of-illegal-users-no-one-was-doing-their-job/2016/10/22/10e79396-30a7-11e6-8ff7-7b6c1998b7a0_story.html?

The First Fentanyl Addict | VICE

If the opiate crisis has taught us anything, it's that addiction affects everyone. An unprecedented surge in fentanyl-implicated death—across all incomes and backgrounds, obviously—has sparked public health emergencies across the US and Canada. With each fentanyl overdose reported, we're seeing ignorant assumptions about who uses drugs and why finally put to rest.

But there was a time when fentanyl was almost exclusively used by a very small group, and it had nothing to do with Margaret Wente's idea of a "typical drug addict" or poverty or organized crime. What the general public is oblivious to—but the medical community knows—is how fentanyl addiction took its roots in anesthesiology before it made its way into the mainstream.

Dr. Ethan Bryson, associate professor in the anesthesia and psychiatry departments at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, believes it was anesthesiologists who, familiar with fentanyl's pharmacology and abuse potential, first began misusing the opioid.

"If you look at the history of morphine, cocaine, and heroin, these were all drugs which were initially developed for legitimate medical purposes, but subsequently became recreational pharmaceuticals," Bryson told VICE. "They were all experimented on with people with that access. That's well documented in history."

More …

http://www.vice.com/read/the-first-fentanyl-addict?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

He ate a pepper so hot it tore a hole in his esophagus - The Washington Post

A ghost pepper's heat is described in terms normally reserved for carpet bombings. Its heat is measured at 1 million units on the Scoville scale, a per-mass measure of capsaicin — the chemical compound that imbues peppers with heat — that until recently was a world record. Peppers that pass the 1 million mark are called superhot; as a rule they are reddish and puckered, as though one of Satan's internal organs had prolapsed. To daredevil eaters of a certain stripe, the superhot peppers exist only to challenge.

When consumed, ghost peppers and other superhots provoke extreme reactions. "Your body thinks it's going to die," as Louisiana pepper grower Ronald Primeaux told the AP in October. "You're not going to die."

But, demonstrated by a rare though severe incident reported recently in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, superhot peppers can cause bodily harm. A 47-year-old man, unnamed in the case study, attempted a super-spicy feat — eating a hamburger served with a ghost pepper puree — and tore a hole in his esophagus.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/10/18/he-ate-an-extremely-spicy-ghost-pepper-hours-later-doctors-found-a-hole-in-his-throat/?

Tramadol: The Opioid Crisis for the Rest of the World - WSJ

GAROUA, Cameroon—Not long ago, a Dutch neurobiologist announced a surprising discovery: A root used by rural West African healers to treat pain contains an apparently natural version of a man-made opioid.

The root from northern Cameroon had such high levels of a painkiller called tramadol that mice given an extract and placed on a hot plate didn't feel their feet burning at first.

A year later, German rivals came up with a different explanation for the unusual plant. Inexpensive, imported tramadol is so heavily abused in northern Cameroon that it seeps from human and animal waste into the groundwater and soil, where vegetation absorbs it, wrote Michael Spiteller and Souvik Kusari, chemists at the University of Dortmund.

Farmers in Northern Cameroon told the researchers that they take double or triple the safe dosage, and feed tramadol to cattle to help them pull plows through the scorching afternoon sun.

More ...

http://www.wsj.com/articles/tramadol-the-opioid-crisis-for-the-rest-of-the-world-1476887401

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The shocking pain of American men - The Washington Post

Once upon a time, nearly every man in America worked. In 1948, the labor-force participation rate was a staggering 96.7 percent among men in their prime working years.

That statistic has been steadily declining ever since. Today, about 11.5 percent of men between the ages of 24-54 are neither employed nor looking for a job. Economists say that these people are "out of the labor force" — and they don't figure into statistics like the unemployment rate.

This demographic trend has been the subject of much noise and consternation lately. Nicholas Eberstadt, a demographer at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, calls the development a "quiet catastrophe: the collapse, over two generations, of work for American men."

Eberstadt concedes that he can't pinpoint the precise causes, but he implies that the problem, at its root, emanates from some kind of moral or societal dysfunction.

"Time-use surveys suggest [these men] are almost entirely idle," Eberstadt wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed a few weeks ago. "Unlike in the past, the U.S. is now evidently rich enough to carry them, after a fashion," he added.

Princeton professor Alan Krueger, a former chief economist at the Department of Labor and former chairman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, has taken a look at the same data — but he came away with a different conclusion.

What stood out to him is that a lot of these men say they are in considerable pain.

In a recently released draft of his paper, which he will present at a Federal Reserve conference in Boston on Friday, Krueger finds that 44 percent of male, prime-age labor force dropouts say they took pain medication the day prior — which is more than twice the rate reported by employed men.

More ...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/10/13/a-record-number-of-men-arent-working-this-might-finally-explain-why/

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How naked mole rats conquered pain—and what it could mean for us | Science | AAAS

Although it has a face—and body—that only a mother could love, the naked mole rat has a lot to offer biomedical science. It lives 10 times longer than a mouse, almost never gets cancer, and doesn't feel pain from injury and inflammation. Now, researchers say they've figured out how the rodents keep this pain away.

"It's an amazing result," says Harold Zakon, an evolutionary neurobiologist at the University of Texas, Austin, who was not involved with the work. "This study points us to important areas … that might be targeted to reduce this type of pain."

Naked mole rats are just plain weird. They live almost totally underground in coloniesstructured like honey bee hives, with hundreds of workers servicing a single queen and her few consorts. To survive, they dig kilometers of tunnels in search of large underground tubers for food. It's such a tough life that—to conserve energy—this member of the rodent family gave up regulating its temperature, and they are able to thrive in a low-oxygen, high–carbon dioxide environment that would suffocate or be very painful to humans. "They might as well be from another planet," says Thomas Park, a neuroscientist at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Gary Lewin, a neuroscientist at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association in Berlin, began working with naked mole rats because a friend in Chicago was finding that the rodent's pain fibers were not the same as other mammals'. In 2008, the studies led to the finding that naked mole rats didn't feel pain when they came into contact with acid and didn't get more sensitive to heat or touch when injured, like we and other mammals do. Lewin was hooked and has been raising the rodents in his lab ever since. They are a little more challenging than rats or mice, he notes, because with just one female per colony producing young, he never really has quite enough individuals for his studies.

So instead of studying the whole animals, he began isolating single nerve cells from the mole rats and investigating them in lab dishes to track the molecular basis of the rodent's pain insensitivity. The pain pathway is kicked off when a substance called nerve growth factor is released by injured or inflamed cells. This factor binds to a protein on the pain-cell surface, a so-called receptor named TrkA, which relays the "pain" message throughout the cell. In us and other mammals, that message increases the activity of a molecular pore, called the TRPV1 ion channel, causing the cell to become more sensitive to touch or heat. "So the cell says 'It hurts more,'" Lewin explains.

But that doesn't happen in naked mole rats. Lewin evaluated the workings of the animal's pain pathway components by mixing them with those of standard rats and putting the combinations in immature frog eggs. For example, the naked mole rat TRPV1 channel sensitized the egg to acid and heat when the rat TrkA was put into the egg cell with it. Thus, Lewin and his colleagues narrowed down the breakdown in this pathway to the TrkA receptor itself. The naked mole rat version of TrkA failed to activate the ion channel as efficiently as the rat version of TrkA, Lewin and his colleagues reveal today in Cell Reports.

More ….

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/10/how-naked-mole-rats-conquered-pain-and-what-it-could-mean-us

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Lancet Global Burden of Disease Highlights Back Pain - The Atlantic

The newest iteration of the Global Burden of Disease study, which tracks the prevalence of deaths and diseases worldwide, contains some good news: On average people are living about a decade longer than they were in 1980. But there's a catch: Health hasn't improved as fast as life expectancy overall, which means that for many, those long, final years are spent hobbled by illness and disability.

The nature of our old-age ailments has changed in recent years. The study, published this week in The Lancet and conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, uses a metric called "Disability Adjusted Life Years." DALYs, as they're abbreviated, combine the number of years of life a person loses if they die prematurely with the amount of time they spend living with a disability. Think of it as time you didn't spend living your #bestlife—because you were sick or dead.

In rich countries, the number one cause of these DALYs is not surprising: ischemic heart disease, which is associated with well-known Western issues like high cholesterol and obesity. But the number two condition is a little strange: plain, old-fashioned, ever-present, low back and neck pain.

Even when you include poor and middle-income countries, low back and neck pain went from ranking 12th as a cause of DALYs globally in 1990 to ranking fourth in 2015, the most recent year. In most countries, it was the leading cause of disability. DALYs from low back and neck pain increased by more than 17 percent from 2005.

The things that make us low-level miserable are now more likely to be simple aches and pains, rather than frightening, communicable diseases like diarrhea. That's encouraging, but it's still a little sad. People all over the world increasingly live long, great lives, only to spend their golden years slathered in IcyHot.

More ...

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/10/how-back-pain-took-over-the-world/503243/?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Committee on Pain Management and Regulatory Strategies to Address Prescription Opioid Abuse - National Academy of Sciences

An ad hoc committee will develop a report to inform the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as to the state of the science regarding prescription opioid abuse and misuse, including prevention, management, and intervention, and to provide an update from the 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research, including a further characterization of the evolving role that opioid analgesics play in pain management. The report additionally will make recommendations on the options available to FDA to address the prescription opioid overdose epidemic, from both the individual and public health perspectives, and to otherwise further advance the field.

http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/Activities/PublicHealth/AddressPrescriptionOpioidAbuse.aspx

Saturday, September 10, 2016

All Pain Is Not Equal - RELIEF: PAIN RESEARCH NEWS, INSIGHTS AND IDEAS

Thirty-one-year-old Less Henderson recently returned from a week-long hospital stay after her lung collapsed due to endometriosis, a reproductive disease in which the lining of the uterus grows in other parts of the body, causing pain. Though endometriosis usually only affects the pelvic area, in rare cases like Henderson's it can spread further, causing serious and potentially fatal complications.

While Henderson's collapsed lung was addressed quickly and she is now on the mend, she has not always been as fortunate in the health care she's received. Henderson—who is both black and working class—struggled for years to get a diagnosis for her horrible abdominal pain. Instead, she says doctors were quick to dismiss her, often accusing her of exaggerating or fabricating her pain.

More ...

Saturday, September 03, 2016

National Pain Strategy - NIH

The objectives of the National Pain Strategy aim to decrease the prevalence of pain across its continuum from acute to high-impact chronic pain and its associated morbidity and disability across the lifespan. The intent is to reduce the burden of pain for individuals, their families, and society as a whole.

More ...

https://iprcc.nih.gov/docs/HHSNational_Pain_Strategy.pdf

NIH Pain Consortium - Pain Information Brochures

The National Institutes of Health consists of many different institutes and centers. The following is an index to various NIH publications about pain symptoms, conditions and treatments.

https://painconsortium.nih.gov/News_Other_Resources/pain_index.html

The Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC)

The Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC) is a Federal advisory committee created by the Department of Health and Human Services to enhance pain research efforts and promote collaboration across the government, with the ultimate goals of advancing the fundamental understanding of pain and improving pain-related treatment strategies.

https://iprcc.nih.gov/index.htm

About the Pain Special Interest Group | NCCIH

The PAIN Special Interest Group (PAIN SIG) is comprised of investigators from a number of different institutes and centers at the NIH that are interested in the neurobiological mechanisms underlying pain. Our group is moderated by Drs. Yarimar Carrasquillo, Alex Chesler, and Lauren Chesler and includes students, postdocs, postbacs, staff, investigators, and clinicians. Research areas of interest span from molecular and cellular studies in model systems to clinical studies in both healthy individuals and pain patients. Our goal is to provide a forum where researchers from different backgrounds can openly exchange their ideas and perspectives as well as discuss the latest technical approaches for the study of pain.

https://nccih.nih.gov/research/intramural/sig/painsig

Review Examines Clinical Trial Evidence on Complementary Approaches for Five Painful Conditions | NCCIH

A review of evidence from clinical trials shows that a variety of complementary health approaches—including acupuncture, yoga, tai chi, massage therapy, and relaxation techniques—hold promise for helping to manage pain. The review, conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, was published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Painful conditions are the most common reasons why American adults use complementary health approaches, on which they spend more than $30 billion yearly. About 40 million American adults experience severe pain in any given year, and they spend more than $14 billion out-of-pocket on complementary approaches to manage such painful conditions as back pain, neck pain, and arthritis.

The researchers searched the MEDLINE database for randomized, controlled clinical trials published from 1966 through March 2016 and conducted in the United States or including U.S. participants. This approach was chosen because of the particular nature of the U.S. health-care system, which is relevant to "standard care" or "usual care" in trials and also to licensing requirements (where applicable) for complementary therapies.


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Saturday, August 20, 2016

In Search Of An Opioid That Offers Help Without The Risks : Shots - Health News : NPR

Once people realized that opioid drugs could cause addiction and deadly overdoses, they tried to use newer forms of opioids to treat the addiction to its parent. Morphine, about 10 times the strength of opium, was used to curb opium cravings in the early 19th century. Codeine, too, was touted as a nonaddictive drug for pain relief, as was heroin.

Those attempts were doomed to failure because all opioid drugs interact with the brain in the same way. They dock to a specific neural receptor, the mu-opioid receptor, which controls the effects of pleasure, pain relief and need.

Now scientists are trying to create opioid painkillers that give relief from pain without triggering the euphoria, dependence and life-threatening respiratory suppression that causes deadly overdoses.

That wasn't thought possible until 2000, when a scientist named Laura Bohn found out something about a protein called beta-arrestin, which sticks to the opioid receptor when something like morphine activates it. When she gave morphine to mice that couldn't make beta-arrestin, they were still numb to pain, but a lot of the negative side effects of the drug were missing. They didn't build tolerance to the drug. At certain dosages, they had less withdrawal. Their breathing was more regular, and they weren't as constipated as normal mice on morphine.

Before that experiment, scientists thought the mu-opioid receptor was a simple switch that flicked all the effects of opioids on or off together. Now it seems they could be untied. "The hope is you'd have another molecule that looks like morphine and binds to the same receptor, but the way it turns the receptor on is slightly different," says Dr. Aashish Manglik, a researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine who studies opioid receptors.

After Bohn's discovery, a number of people, including a team that includes Manglik, started looking for a drug that could connect to the mu-opioid receptor in a way that avoids the negative effects of beta-arrestin.

To do that, they mapped the receptor's structure in a computer program and started looking for chemicals that would stick to it. "We tried to look for molecules that would still bind to this 3-D structure, but are as far away from morphine and codeine as possible," Manglik says.

The team ran 3 million possibilities through the computer and picked the 23 best candidates to test in a lab. One chemical, PZM21, seems to do what they hoped: Turn the opioid receptor on without using much beta-arrestin. They report their findings in Nature on Wednesday.

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http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/08/17/490380937/scientists-engineer-an-opioid-that-may-reduce-pain-with-less-risk?

The Connoisseur of Pain - The New York Times

Within minutes of our first meeting, and more or less in response to my saying good morning, Justin Schmidt began lamenting our culture's lack of insect-based rites of passage. He told me about the Sater√©-Maw√© people in northwestern Brazil, who hold a ceremony in which young men slip their hands into large mitts filled with bullet ants, whose stings are so agonizing they can cause temporary paralysis; when initiates pass the test, they're one step closer to becoming full members of society.

Schmidt believes we could learn something from this. By trade, he is an entomologist, an expert on the Hymenoptera order — wasps, bees and ants — but his interest in this insect ritual was not merely academic. He has two teenage boys, and, on this particular morning at least, I found him wondering whether they might benefit from a pain ritual to help introduce them to adulthood.

"I mean, it wouldn't kill them," Schmidt said. "And I think that may be the key to the whole thing: It can't kill you and yet something very real is happening."

It was a bit before 7:30 on a windy weekday morning in Tucson, and Schmidt had just dropped off his 14-year-old at school. At 69, Schmidt has a head of red hair that stubbornly refuses to go gray and a boyish face that glints of mischief. We were driving in his 1999 Toyota Corolla down a road that may have been a desert highway or a city thoroughfare: My East Coast eyes couldn't tell the difference. We pulled up to a traffic light, next to a giant saguaro cactus whose short, upturned arm gave it the look of a crossing guard gesturing us to stop.

Schmidt's new book, "The Sting of the Wild: The Story of the Man Who Got Stung for Science," weaves his theories about stinging insects through a narrative of his personal experiences digging in the dirt. For many readers, the highlight of the book will be the appendix, his celebrated Pain Scale for Stinging Insects, which rates the pain level of dozens of insect stings, an index he created mostly by firsthand experience, either by suffering stings incidentally during field research or, in some cases, by inducing them.

Because stings of the same magnitude don't necessarily feel the same, Schmidt has written haiku-like descriptions for each of the 83 sting entries:

Anthophorid bee, Pain Level 1, "Almost pleasant, a lover just bit your earlobe a little too hard."

Maricopa harvester ant, Level 3, "After eight unrelenting hours of drilling into that ingrown toenail, you find the drill wedged into the toe."

Termite-raiding ant, Level 2, "The debilitating pain of a migraine contained in the tip of your finger."

Club-horned wasp, Level 0.5, "Disappointing. A paper clip falls on your bare foot."

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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

NYTimes: Minorities Suffer From Unequal Pain Treatment

Roslyn Lewis was at work at a dollar store here in Tuscaloosa, pushing a heavy cart of dog food, when something popped in her back: an explosion of pain. At the emergency room the next day, doctors gave her Motrin and sent her home.

Her employer paid for a nerve block that helped temporarily, numbing her lower back, but she could not afford more injections or physical therapy. A decade later, the pain radiates to her right knee and remains largely unaddressed, so deep and searing that on a recent day she sat stiffly on her couch, her curtains drawn, for hours.

The experience of African-Americans, like Ms. Lewis, and other minorities illustrates a problem as persistent as it is complex: Minorities tend to receive less treatment for pain than whites, and suffer more disability as a result.

While an epidemic of prescription opioid abuse has swept across the United States, African-Americans and Hispanics have been affected at much lower rates than whites. Researchers say minority patients use fewer opioids, and they offer a thicket of possible explanations, including a lack of insurance coverage and a greater reluctance among members of minority groups to take opioid painkillers even if they are prescribed. But the researchers have also found evidence of racial bias and stereotyping in recognizing and treating pain among minorities, particularly black patients.

"We've done a good job documenting that these disparities exist," said Salimah Meghani, a pain researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. "We have not done a good job doing something about them."

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http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/10/us/how-race-plays-a-role-in-patients-pain-treatment.html?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

NYTimes: Naloxone Eases Pain of Heroin Epidemic, but Not Without Consequences

PORTLAND, Me. — A woman in her 30s was sitting in a car in a parking lot here last month, shooting up heroin, when she overdosed. Even after the men she was with injected her with naloxone, the drug that reverses opioid overdoses, she remained unconscious. They called 911.

Firefighters arrived and administered oxygen to improve her breathing, but her skin had grown gray and her lips had turned blue. As she lay on the asphalt, the paramedics slipped a needle into her arm and injected another dose of naloxone.

In a moment, her eyes popped open. Her pupils were pinpricks. She was woozy and disoriented, but eventually got her bearings as paramedics put her on a stretcher and whisked her to a hospital.
Every day across the country, hundreds, if not thousands, of people who overdose on opioids are being brought back to life with naloxone. Hailed as a miracle drug by many, it carries no health risk; it cannot be abused and, if given mistakenly to someone who has not overdosed on opioids, does no harm. More likely, it saves a life.

As a virulent opioid epidemic continues to ravage the country, with 78 people in the United States dying of overdoses every day, naloxone's use has increasingly moved out of medical settings, where it has been available since the 1970s, and into the homes and hands of the general public.

But naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, has also had unintended consequences. Critics say that it gives drug users a safety net, allowing them to take more risks as they seek higher highs. Indeed, many users overdose more than once, some multiple times, and each time, naloxone brings them back.

Advocates argue that the drug gives people a chance to get into treatment and turn their lives around. And, they say, few addicts knowingly risk needing to be revived, since naloxone ruins their high and can make them violently ill.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/28/us/naloxone-eases-pain-of-heroin-epidemic-but-not-without-consequences.html?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Financial Stress Hurts, Literally - Scientific American

Few things feel worse than not knowing when your next paycheck is coming. Economic insecurity has been shown to have a whole host of negative effects, including low self-esteem and impaired cognitive functioning. It turns out financial stress can also physically hurt, according to a paper published in February in Psychological Science.
Eileen Chou, a public policy professor at the University of Virginia, and her collaborators began by analyzing a data set of 33,720 U.S. households and found that those with higher levels of unemployment were more likely to purchase over-the-counter painkillers. Then, using a series of experiments, the team discovered that simply thinking about the prospect of financial insecurity was enough to increase pain. For example, people reported feeling almost double the amount of physical pain in their body after recalling a financially unstable time in their life as compared with those who thought about a secure period. In another experiment, university students who were primed to feel anxious about future employment prospects removed their hand from an ice bucket more quickly (showing less pain tolerance) than those who were not. The researchers also found that economic insecurity reduced people's sense of control, which, in turn, increased feelings of pain.

Chou and her colleagues suggest that because of this link between financial insecurity and decreased pain tolerance, the recent recession may have been a factor in fueling the prescription painkiller epidemic. Other experts are cautious about taking the findings that far. "I think the hypothesis [that financial stress causes pain] has a lot of merit, but it would be helpful to see additional rigorous evidence in a real-world environment," says Heather Schofield, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the study. Given that stress in general is well known to increase feelings of pain, further research is needed to disentangle financial anxiety from other sources of pressure.

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http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/financial-stress-hurts-literally/