by Myra Christopher, PAINS Director Michael_Botticelli-public-domainThis week, the Senate unanimously approved Michael Botticelli as Director of the Office for National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) or the U.S. Drug Czar, a position he had held in an interim capacity since last March. Prior to that he has served as Deputy Director at ONDCP. In 1988, Botticelli was arrested for drunken driving and openly talks about his struggles with alcohol abuse. After the Senate hearing, he said, “There are millions of Americans – including myself – who are in successful long-term recovery….Our stories can fundamentally change the way our nation views people with a substance use disorder, which is a disease needing medical treatment like any other disease.”

I believe he is right; narrative is a powerful tool for change – perhaps, even more so than is data. Somehow, however, the voices of those who live with chronic pain and their stories don’t seem to jettison people to positions of power or even be heard by policy makers. In November, I posted a blog titled, An Unlikely Couple?, in which I encouraged leaders in the pain space to reach out to those working on containing abuse of prescription pain medications and preventing unintended deaths – two things that all of us support.

Reach out to Mr. Botticelli, congratulate him on being confirmed and offer to help build bridges between two important public health issues, i.e., the under-treatment of chronic pain and the addiction, including abuse of prescription pain medications. You may connect with him through Twitter and Facebook and comment on blogs. For other ways to stay connected, visit the ONDCP website.