We Should Not Add to the Problem by Pat Conrad MD


Accuse me of confirmation bias all you like, but this story corroborates what a lot of us have observed for years. In an age in which increasing numbers demand a pain-free existence, amidst widespread opioid and benzodiazepine addictions, where “disability” has become a profession so acceptable it should have its own university major, we are being trampled by an endemic of chronic pitifulness.

CP is a very real, very deadly condition to which anyone can succumb, which must be fought every day for the span of one’s (good-quality) years. So here is a statistical goody: a new study demonstrates a correlation between unemployment and increased pain medication usage. A conservative demographer quoted in the article said, “Time-use surveys suggest [these men] are almost entirely idle. Unlike in the past, the U.S. is now evidently rich enough to carry them, after a fashion.”

His liberal counterpart, a pro-Obama economist, concluded that “a lot of these men say they are in considerable pain…44 percent of male, prime-age labor force dropouts say they took pain medication the day prior — which is more than twice the rate reported by employed men.”

  • 20 percent of these men say they have difficulty walking or climbing stairs
  • 16 percent say they have memory or concentration problems
  • a third say they have a disability of some kind
  • 18 percent say they have multiple disabilities

The article states, “fully 6 percent of American men between the ages of 25-54 feel that their minds or their bodies are too broken for them to work. This rate has nearly quadrupled since 1968, when only 1.6 percent of men felt the same way.”

What does this have to do with authentic medicine? Physicians have an obligation, and ought to have the willingness to call things as they are. As it is, too many of us acquiesce too often to patients whining for some sort of disability status, and demanding pain or “nerve” medications. That is not compassionate, but just the opposite. The article states that, “Declining health is becoming a major reason prime-age men are working less and less”, and I think that is a boatload of crap. The government and much of medicine is colluding in a gluttonous, slovenly, growing disability industry that is giving the unemployed the poisoned excuses to remain exactly where they are, and quit. This has profound consequences first for the mental, and later the physical health of these individuals, and physicians ought to own their part in this disaster and work to reverse it.