May 24, 2016—The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) applauds the recent passage of several bills by Congress as a major first step in combating the nation’s opioid epidemic. An important next step, according to the association, is expanding access to conservative treatments for pain in the country’s health care system.
The House of Representatives passed 18 bills related to opioids earlier this month, and the Senate approved a comprehensive bill in March. While most of the House bills were related to further prescriber education, there were several that could lead to enhanced roles for the nation’s doctors of chiropractic in battling this relatively new scourge. HR 4969, the John Thomas Decker Act, directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to study what information and resources are available to youth athletes and their families regarding the dangers of opioid use, non-opioid treatment options and how to seek addiction treatment. HR 4981, the Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Expansion and Modernization Act, amends the Controlled Substances Act to ensure patients have access to a wider range of comprehensive, evidence-based treatment options, and helps minimize the potential for drug diversion.
“It’s clear that the federal government has recognized the toll opioid overuse and addiction has taken on this country and is taking positive steps to address this epidemic,” said ACA President David Herd, DC. “Efforts must now be directed toward educating health care providers and the public about conservative forms of pain management that can be used as a first line of defense in treatment – and expanding access to those services.”
Chiropractic physicians have long been concerned about the growing reliance on prescription medications for pain. At this year’s annual meeting of ACA’s House of Delegates in Washington, D.C., delegates adopted a policy statement in response to the dual public health concerns of inadequate pain management and opioid abuse. The new policy supports the investigation of nonpharmacologic interventions for pain treatment across a variety of patient populations and healthcare delivery settings; the promotion of evidence-based nonpharmacologic therapies within best practice models for pain management; the improvement of access to providers of nonpharmacologic therapies; interprofessional education to augment the training of pain management teams; and public health campaigns to raise awareness of drug-free treatment options for pain syndromes.
ACA’s new policy statement is part of the chiropractic profession’s ongoing efforts to educate the public about the value of exhausting non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical approaches for pain management before moving on to higher-risk options. This conservative care first health care model encourages, when appropriate, the use of more cost-effective and safer approaches over potentially addictive medications, surgery and other invasive procedures.
“Chiropractic physicians are well positioned to serve as a first line of defense in the conservative management of acute and chronic pain,” said Herd. “They offer conservative-first, drug-free approaches as well as guidance on self-care, that can provide needed relief for many who suffer from pain.”
More than 33.6 million Americans sought chiropractic care in 2014, compared with a previously reported estimate of 20.6 million in 2012, according to a 2015 Gallup report commissioned by Palmer College of Chiropractic.
The House and Senate will now work to develop a comprehensive bill to include provisions passed by both chambers, with the hope in getting it to the president’s desk soon.