If you’re one of the millions who suffer from chronic pain, you may have noticed the attention currently focused on a powerful new narcotic called Zohydro. With so much focus on ending our nation’s pain killer epidemic, the timing of the FDA’s recent approval of this new drug has many perplexed. It was just six months ago that twenty-eight State Attorney Generals joined together in writing the FDA to stop the agency’s approval of Zohydro. Sen. Joe Manchini (D-West Virginia) has even submitted a federal bill to overturn the FDA’s approval noting that “The burdens of Zohydro ER to the public health outweigh its potential therapeutic benefits.”
It’s an issue that pits those who rely on pain killers (and may welcome this powerful narcotic) with those who worry about the many thousands who die annually from pain killer overmedication and abuse. Yet, I believe there is an important area of health research that has the potential to bring both pain relief and an end to deaths due to pain killers.
A deeper look into the spiritual dimension of health.
The growing dependence on pain killers has fostered a dangerous rise of heroin use, especially among young people. Once one has abused pain killers for a temporary high, heroin is cheaper and easier to acquire for the same purpose. Some have begun to see this phenomenon as a sign of a spiritual poverty in our nation and a need for greater meaning in life. As medical science stalls in finding answers to safe and effective pain relief, interest in spirituality has grown.
Spirituality informs the subjective beliefs we each hold and goes beneath the surface of things. Placebo studies are one example which highlight the significant role these beliefs play in the effectiveness of health treatments. For instance, how is it that sugar pills and fake surgery bring about healthy outcomes? These results remain a medical mystery that sees man from only a reductionist, physical, and material perspective. Chronic pain is a mental phenomenon which is subjective and individual. Therefore, it makes sense that treatments address the subjective, individual, and spiritual nature of each patient. Narcotics don’t do this.
Consider a case study of someone who once suffered from migraines and became addicted to pain killers. She struggled to find peace, until she found a radically different spiritual approach that went far beyond pleading to God to relieve her suffering. It was a book authored by nineteenth century writer, Mary Baker Eddy called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures that finally brought her comfort. Reading the book inspired this patient to lean on divine support and roused her thinking from passive resignation to a recognition of herself in spiritual terms. Soon she was able to regain her lost sense of self-worth and her migraines and the craving for pain killers both ended.
World-renowned pain specialist Dr. Alex Cahana once told me, “What we most need is an entirely new perspective on health.” No reductionist herself, Eddy provides this new perspective by showing that health can be regained and maintained on a spiritual basis.
Whether Zohydro is withdrawn from pharmacy shelves or not, it is unlikely to solve the need for better answers to chronic pain or end the pain killer epidemic. Yet, venturing deeper into the spiritual dimensions of health may offer the best hope for both.