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By Travis Rieder,

On a beautiful Memorial Day weekend four years ago, I left my home in Germantown, Md., on one of my rare motorcycle trips, but I did not get very far. A few blocks from the townhouse where I lived with my partner and our baby girl, a young man drove his large white van directly into the side of my bike. My left foot was crushed, and I was tossed to the ground.

That day radically changed my life, and not just because of the injury itself. As a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University, part of my job is to think about the moral quandaries raised by the practice of medicine. Unexpectedly becoming a trauma patient can be a particularly good way to uncover such issues. My own experience exposed a pair of linked challenges for patients like me and for our health care system: how to alleviate severe, debilitating pain while making sure that lives aren’t destroyed by the opioids that remain, for now at least, an irreplaceable remedy.

I had five surgeries over the course of a month, at three different hospitals. There they gave me intravenous morphine, fentanyl and hydromorphone. They sent me home with powerful oxycodone pills. The drugs were a godsend for getting through my ordeal, but I soon faced the results of being on high and escalating dosages for too long. I had formed a profound dependence. When my orthopedic trauma surgeon finally told me, two months after the accident, that it was time to get off the meds, I was caught completely off-guard.

…continue reading ‘The Perilous Blessing of Opioids’

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Wall Street Journal

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