Studies are showing that Hispanics and Blacks are less likely to get adequate care for pain and more likely to simply deal with it than their white counterparts. Minorities are also more likely to suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder down the road when not properly treated for their pain.
Researchers have been unable to determine whether the difference is due to cultural differences, doctor/nurse bias, physiological variances, or a combination of factors, but as pain specialist, Dr. Carmen Green says, “There is an unequal burden of pain.”
Green’s recent study of 200 chronic pain patients, as part of University of Michigan’s health system, found that black patients were prescribed fewer pain medications than whites. Also, women were prescribed weaker pain meds than men. The Journal of Pain published Green’s research which presented that, on average, a minority pain patient would be prescribed 1.8 pain medications compared to 2.6 for non-minority pain sufferers. In an earlier study, Green found that once the prescriptions are given, minorities have a tougher time getting them filled as only 54 percent of pharmacies in their neighborhoods carry the most common painkillers, as opposed to 87 percent in majority-white pharmacies.
In Green’s two decades’ worth of research, she found that even in cases of late-stage cancer and broken bone patients, minorities are given less pain relief.
Part of the problem rests in the fact that doctors are not given very good training on how to identify and treat pain. The experience of pain is also subjective and relies solely on a patient’s ability to explain his or her pain to the doctor.