The rate of death from opioid overdoses in the United States has more than doubled over the past decade. Amid a deluge of reports on the national crisis, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that in much of the world many people die in preventable pain, without access to morphine for end-of-life care.
This is the finding of a global commission published in The Lancet, which includes analysis of the global distribution of narcotics. The above map shows a relative distribution of how much of the need for opioids is met in various places.
The focus of the report is addressing a relatively new target in global health, “serious health-related suffering” as a measure of the need for care. Palliative care, specifically, “should be focused on relieving the serious health-related suffering that is associated with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions or the end of life,” the authors write.
The idea is that suffering isn’t always preventable, but a few cents’ worth of morphine can make an enormous difference. Some 45 percent of the 56.2 million people who died in 2015 experienced serious suffering, the authors found. That included 2.5 million children. More than 80 percent of the people were from developing regions, and the vast majority had no access to palliative care and pain relief.