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The ongoing opioid crisis in the U.S. reflects the unintended consequences of an effort to control pain by masking it. We're paying a terrible price.

The opioid epidemic is, in many ways, fueled by a misguided approach to pain treatment that places an overreliance on the use of addictive opioids. Pain can be difficult to treat, and presents differently in different people: that's why an integrated, multidisciplinary pain management system is the best way to respond. It's a system that must include evidence-based, nonpharmacological approaches such as physical therapy, as supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why It Matters

When the CDC issued its guideline for prescribing opioids in 2016, more than 42,000 people in the United States died from an opioid overdose, including more than 17,000 whose deaths were attributed to prescription opioid overdoses. Deaths caused by overdose of prescription opioids quadrupled in 15 years until, in 2019, deaths from overdose were actually contributing to declining life expectancy in some segments of the U.S. population. Physical therapy offers a proven, cost-effective, and safe way to manage pain, and in turn save lives.

Our position

APTA supports efforts to increase patient access to nonpharmacologic approaches to pain treatment, including reducing copays, encourage early access to nondrug pain management, and educating the public on treatment options.

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