A Debate About Prescription Opioids

Are there people in acute pain who could benefit from prescription opioids? Yes.

Are there people who are addicted to and at risk of overdosing on prescription opioids? Yes.

That’s the nub of one of the most challenging problems in current drug policy: How do we regulate prescription opioids in a fashion that maximizes their positive medical impacts and minimizes their risks and harms?

Our most recent Stanford Health Policy Forum featured a civil, spirited debate about this question between Drs. Sean Mackey and Anna Lembke. In addition to being highly interesting, their discussion shows that (hooray!) at least some people can argue about drug policy while still respecting and listening to each other.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.