A reader writes:
As a primary care physician, this perspective from Balko needs some balance. Are there patients in the US who are under-treated for pain? Of course. No system is perfect. However, as a country, we have a horrendous tolerance for pain, and those who take narcotics for inappropriate reasons can find themselves hooked. Once hooked, an addict poses tremendous problems for the health care system. Certainly one of the most difficult clinical encounters a physician needs to navigate are those in which patients exhibit drug-seeking behavior. Manipulations such as "I lost my prescription" or "my prescription was stolen" are commonplace. A startling statistic from a local column on the subject: "[D]espite the fact that only 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the United States, 80 percent of the world’s prescription narcotics are consumed here."