Feel the Pain

My son has to get his wisdom teeth out so I immediately started worrying about the inevitable pain killers the doctor will prescribe for him after the surgery.  I follow the news and all of the horror stories about the “opioid crisis” and it got me thinking that part of the problem might be society’s changing relationship with pain. Pain “killer” by definition implicitly promises that the patient will have no pain.  If not, we ask for either (1) more of what we are taking, or (2) stronger meds.  There is certainly a place for powerful pain killers (both short-term and to manage chronic pain) but for a majority of the population a little pain, for a short period, might not be a bad thing.  Cavemen lived for years with sore backs, knees, and teeth.  When I was a kid, we got bactine and band-aids for scrapes and blood, and aspirin for everything else (including wisdom teeth removal). We expected to be uncomfortable for mild to moderate injuries.  Now, there seems to be a societal attitude that the physicians’ job is not just to “cure” our ills, but to ensure that we suffer no unpleasantness in the process.  That’s not the doctors’ fault – it’s ours.  I don’t know the statistics but I’m curious what percentage of opioid prescriptions could be avoided if the patients were willing to live a long life with a little pain, instead of a (short) life of addiction.