There was a time when opioids were used exclusively to help manage the pain of cancer, palliative care and end-of-life patients, not the litany of ailments they are often prescribed for today.

For C-sections, chronic pain, fractures, contusions, dental surgery, foot surgery and more, physicians typically used non-opioid alternatives to treat their patients.

In the late 1990s, the world changed dramatically as pain was officially recognized as the fifth vital sign. Many physicians became more comfortable prescribing opioids to a plethora of patients, and medical students and physicians were told that opioids were not addictive (i.e., the benefits outweighed the risk of addiction in chronic pain), largely driven by a surge in opioid marketing campaigns. By 2012, healthcare providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication, enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills.

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