The United States uses a third of the world's opioids but a fifth of Americans still say they suffer from chronic pain. The only demonstrable effect of two decades of widespread prescription of opioids has been catastrophic harm. With more than 47,000 Americans dying of opioid overdoses in 2017 and hundreds of thousandsmore addicted to them, it was recently reported that, for the first time, Americans were more likely to die of opioids than of car accidents.
This has forced many to take a step back and ponder the very nature of pain, to understand how best to alleviate it.
The ancient Greeks considered pain a passion — an emotion rather than a sensation like touch or smell. During the Dark Ages in Europe, pain was seen as a punishment for sins, a spiritual and emotional experience alleviated through prayers rather than prescriptions.
In the 19th century, the secularization of Western society led to the secularization of pain. It was no longer a passion to be endured but a sensation to be quashed.