Meperidine: Personal and social consequences

Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 5:20 pm

Meperidine and the other opioids do offer great personal and social medical benefits. However, these benefits must be weighed against the potential costs of abuse and addiction. The social consequences of having a broad range of effective analgesics to treat chronic pain are significant. Conditions associated with chronic pain are the largest contributors to lost work time and decreased productivity. In addition, in the long-term, many individuals with ineffectively treated pain only add to the medical costs society must bear. Therefore, doctors must weigh the risks and benefits of prescribing meperidine for each individual. Careful use of meperidine and other opioids would seem to present much greater social benefits than costs.
Personal costs — financial, physical, and emotional — can be huge for those individuals who abuse meperidine and become addicted. An established addiction can be expensive to maintain. Many people describe a serious opioid addiction as “all consuming”; everything in their lives eventually revolves around obtaining more of the drug. With the drug as their focus, they lose friends, alienate family members, and may be unable to hold a job. Those who are caught committing crimes to maintain their addiction may pay a very high price — loss of their freedom. Finally, whether through overdose or violence, those who abuse prescription or illicit drugs may pay the ultimate price — loss of their life.
Evidence indicates that proper meperidine prescription for legitimate medical concerns does not greatly increase the risk of addiction and abuse. Those in the medical community agree that more education is needed by both doctors and patients to help prevent the potential for abuse and addiction, so that patients truly in need are not denied access to meperidine based on misperceptions and fear. The benefits for individuals and society are great when pain is treated safely and effectively.

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