President’s Message, July 2019

Ann Quinlan-Colwell, PhD, APN

As a result of the opioid crisis, during the last few years we have faced many changes that we never expected. Patients and families have been devastated. Some are dealing with Opioid Use Disorder, while others are dealing with pain and withdrawal after abruptly stopping prescription opioids. Shocking are notes posted on physician’s doors stating: “We do not prescribe opioids.” Shocking in a different way was the demise of the Academy of Integrated Pain Management and potential demise of the American Pain Society. These changes are both dreadful and sad.

Similarly, many in our region have been impacted by severe weather crises such as tornados, floods and hurricanes. As a result of hurricane Florence, families are dealing with changes ranging from loss of homes to financial burdens. The effects of the hurricane are dramatic in our local landscape. Many of the majestic tall pines are gone which has dramatically changed the day to day rides through the area. It has been very easy to lament their loss. This week, I realized that following the cleanup, where the tall pines used to stand, now small maples, azaleas, struggling magnolias, smaller pines, and a variety of plants and shrubs are flourishing. Importantly, the remaining tall pines, clearly have an important position. Ironically, they seem stronger where they stand. At the same time, we need to ensure that the emerging bamboo doesn’t indiscriminately overgrow all else.

Using the landscape as a metaphor, I encourage us to continue to explore and support the many pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic options for pain management. As members of the Southern Pain Society, we care for patients using multimodal approaches. We are in a unique position to advocate for optimal multimodal pain management that includes opioids when appropriate and necessary. Similar to the tall pines and bamboo, opioids need not be the dominant, and should not be the only or excessive treatment. Yet they certainly do have an important role for many patients in many situations. Our members are pain management experts with varied experiences, specialties and knowledge. We have a responsibility to share balanced, multimodal information, both clinical and scientific, with our membership as well as clinicians in our region.

Like the variety of flora that is now emerging in the sunlight in our region, our 2019 SPS conference will highlight a variety of integrative approaches to more effectively manage pain. Some presentations will focus on interventions that have at times in the past were overshadowed by opioid monotherapy practices, but now are growing stronger with greater light being shown on them. Others will be innovative options that are emerging through this new landscape. It seems very appropriate that our conference will be in NOLA where recovery from Katrina was so dramatic. We look forward to sharing the emerging landscape of integrative pain management with you in NOLA in September.