By Alexander Germanis
As one ambles about, engaging in the daily activities of life in Bloomington-Normal, one most likely does not realize how a doctor from our humble island in the sea of heartland farms is playing a vital role in the medical history of our nation.
In February of this year, Dr. Ramsin Benyamin, Founder and Medical Director of Millennium Pain Center in Bloomington, addressed the United States House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee.
As mentioned in last month’s article, Dr. Benyamin and the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) are petitioning for better legislative efforts to, in the doctor’s words, “curb opioid abuse and reduce opioid deaths, while maintaining appropriate access and also the promotion of non-opioid modalities like interventional pain techniques.”
A former president of the ASIPP and current board member, Dr. Benyamin was selected to represent the more than 4,500 members of the society as well as the countless American citizens who suffer from opioid dependency.
An opioid is a term applied to a synthetic narcotic with opium-like effects. The primary medical purpose of opiates is to serve as a pain reliever. However, opiates and their synthetic opioid counterparts are also used on a very dangerous, potentially deadly, recreational drug-use basis.
As an interventional pain physician, Dr. Benyamin wanted to highlight the increased danger that opioid use can and does have on even the legally prescribed level.
One of the most common opioids is called fentanyl. According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2016, deaths from opiate abuse — whether natural or semi-synthetic — have skyrocketed since the turn of the century.
As shocking as these deaths are, deaths from opioid abuse — such as fentanyl — surge past deaths resulting from even heroin.
“Fentanyl is approximately fifty times as potent as heroin,” Dr. Benyamin informed the Ways and Means Committee. “While fentanyl contributed to 20,000 deaths, heroin contributed to 15,000 deaths, whereas prescription drugs contributed to less than 15,000 deaths. Deaths from other opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone were up 14 percent. [And] things might very well be worse than what is shown in the data.”
Furthermore, the interventions previously put into place to curb the usage of opioids have been limited and not as effective as originally hoped.
The trends are disturbing, lending even more urgency to the plea made by Dr. Benyamin and his thousands of colleagues. It is their hope that the Ways and Means Committee will see that a three-tiered program be set into motion.
This program, put forth by the ASIPP, will focus on education and alternative medical solutions in order to help patients avoid opioids altogether.
As a way of embodying their own philosophy, the ASIPP have seen to first educating physicians on the management of controlled substances such as opioids. They offer extensive educational activities for pain physicians, including a variety of review courses and competency examinations. “As a matter of fact,” Dr. Benyamin pointed out, “obtaining a competency certification in controlled substance management is a mandatory requirement for being certified by the American Board of Interventional Pain Physicians (ABIPP).”
Education is always a vital first step in fighting any threat, but easier access to alternative methods and techniques in order to avoid the pitfalls associated with simply taking medication is also an important step forward, according to the doctors.
This three-tiered approach they set forward will hopefully reduce the number of opioid-related deaths starting in the near future.
To learn about the three-tiered program proposed by Dr. Benyamin and the ASIPP and how they want to make pain management a safer endeavor for patients everywhere, read next month’s issue of Healthy Cells Magazine.
For more information on any type of pain, you may contact Millennium Pain Center at 309-662-4321 or www.millenniumpaincenter.com. Their new office is located at 2406 E. Empire in Bloomington. The practice provides the most advanced and comprehensive pain management for a wide variety of conditions. Drs. Benyamin and Vallejo have been selected among 70 of the Best Pain Physicians in America.
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