As physicians, it is our duty to ensure that our patients’ pain is adequately treated. In fact, pain has been referred to as the “fifth vital sign”, recognising that it is on par with the four traditional vital signs of temperature, pulse, respiration and blood pressure.1

Prescription pain medications can often dramatically reduce pain and improve quality of life, allowing individuals to engage in activities of daily living, sleep better, and interact with family and friends. For example, cancer patients may gain relief from prescription pain medications as they are undergoing treatment or spending their last days with family. Individuals who have broken major bones after a fall may experience a less agonising recover. It is both human and just to make prescription pain medications available to those who need them and their use would be not overly controversial except for an important problem: Pain medications are often missed, abused, or diverted for illicit uses.

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