Back to Journals » Journal of Pain Research » Volume 9

Opioid prescriptions for pain and epidemic of overdose death: can the dramatic reduction in anesthesia mortality serve as an example?

Authors Kissin I

Received 9 March 2016

Accepted for publication 18 May 2016

Published 28 June 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 453—456


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Michael E Schatman

Igor Kissin

Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

Abstract: The annual number of US deaths from prescription-opioid overdose quadrupled between 1999 and 2010 and in 2010 alone reached 16,651. Deaths from opioid overdose have now surpassed the historic death toll from another drug-related epidemic – anesthesia mortality. In 1954, Beecher and Todd published reliable data on anesthesia-related mortality in the US, estimating the annual number of deaths to be nearly 5,000. Presently anesthesia/anesthetics are reported as the underlying cause in approximately 34 deaths in the US annually. This spectacular decline in anesthesia-related mortality could serve as an example for attempts to curb the epidemic of opioid overdose death. The main reason that led to the dramatic decline in anesthesia-related mortality is the context in which anesthetics are used. It includes training of the anesthesia providers, the introduction of specific standards of patient safety, and anesthesia monitoring. I suggest that the introduction of a similar multifactorial proper context for the use of opioids in the treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain might be the same “game changer” it was for safety in anesthesia.

Keywords: chronic pain, addiction, opioid-use disorder, treatment compliance, apprenticeship, metrics of opioid effectiveness, aberrant opioid-related behavior

Creative Commons License This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms.

Download Article [PDF]  View Full Text [HTML][Machine readable]