Newsweek Article Reinforces Stigma of Pain Meds

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • Today the American Pain Foundation (APF) sent out an Action Alert about a article titled, “Prescription Nation: Why we should worry about prescription drug abuse.”  The article is completely one-sided, focusing on the deaths from pain medication abuse.  Sadly, the article only served to reinforce the stigmas and stereotypes associated with pain management. 

    While none of us would argue that abuse of prescription medications is a serious problem, writer Raina Kelley failed to show the other side of the coin – when properly prescribed and used, pain medications can return some quality of life to people whose lives have been shattered by unrelenting pain

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    The Action Alert stated:


    APF was particularly concerned with several biased and unfounded comments in the article, including a quote from a doctor who works at an addiction treatment center who stated: 'Opioids are really dangerous…Boomers, of course are entering their 60s, and with age comes all kinds of pain problems. If boomers aren’t treated properly, they, too, go overboard.' This comment is insulting and insinuates that this generation will become a group of addicts if they are prescribed opioid medications. Unfortunately, the article did not contain any quotes from an expert qualified to speak about addiction and pain.

    You Can Help Stop This One-Sided Media Coverage

    The APF has asked for our help.  Here is what they would like us to do:

    We encourage anyone affected by pain, including people with pain, loved ones, caregivers, and health care providers to join us by submitting a letter to the editor and posting an online comment, insisting that Newsweek act responsibly and demanding balanced reporting with accurate information about prescription pain medication.

    • Tell Newsweek that you are outraged by Kelley’s one-sided article.

    • Include personal examples about how the stigmas associated with pain have affected you, a family member or one of your patients.

    • Give examples of how, when untreated, pain has negatively impacted all aspects of life while living with pain (e.g., difficulties getting out of bed or performing self care, interfering with your work, inability to hold or play with your children or grandchildren).

    • State how, when properly treated, your life or a patient’s life can return to some sense of normalcy.

    • Encourage Newsweek to do a follow-up interview with an expert who is qualified to speak about pain and addiction.

    • Reiterate that the lives and livelihoods of people lost to pain are worth no less than the celebrities and others who have died after abusing or misusing prescription pain medication. Untreated pain has been shown to shorten the lives of those who suffer — some who no longer consider their lives worth living see suicide as their only option.

    • Reinforce that regardless of people who abuse or misuse pain medication, people in pain have a right to timely and effective pain management.

    Next Steps:

    1. Read the full Newsweek article.

  • 2. Send your letters and comments directly to Newsweek at Letters should be under 200 words. Include “Raina Kelley article” in your subject line.

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    3. Post a comment in the comment section immediately following the online article. Follow posting directions on the web page.

    4. Share this article with your family members, friends, colleagues, health care providers and encourage them to respond to Newsweek. Don’t forget your Facebook and Twitter contacts.

    5. Please let us know when you have taken action by simply cutting and pasting your message to Newsweek into an email message and send to APF at

    To assist you further in your letter, click here to download a Reporter’s Guide that includes information about pain, prescription pain medication and how untreated pain impacts society.

    Thank you in advance for your response to Newsweek. We cannot do this alone — by combining our voices we can Conquer Pain Together!  –––  The American Pain Foundation

    [Note:  If you'd also like to share your message to Newsweek with us, you can copy and paste your message here under “Comments.”  We'd love to hear what you had to say.]


Published On: August 11, 2010