The Racial Tension Between Underprescription and Overprescription of Pain Medication Amid the Opioid Epidemic



America is in the midst of an opioid crisis. However, unlike prior addiction epidemics, the victims are mostly white. Even in the face of that fact, doctors often discount the pain experienced by African American patients and prescribe patients weaker opioids and lower doses of opioids, leading to prolonged pain. This article attributes at least some of these differences to racial bias, much of it implicit. There are many challenges to combatting racial bias in medicine—particularly pain medicine, including the subjective nature of pain and the lack of a consistent standard of care. This Article explores the problem of pain, the racial bias in treatment, and possible legal avenues for addressing bias. By utilizing the data that have already been gathered and gathering more data in the future, the medical community may be able to develop a better standard of care for pain treatment and institute measures that reduce bias and its impact on African American patients.

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