For much of the Western world, physical pain ends with a simple pill. Yet more than half the world's countries have little to no access to morphine, the gold standard for treating medical pain. Freedom from Pain shines a light on this under-reported story. "For a victim of police torture, they will usually sign a confession and the torture stops," says Diederik Lohman of Human Rights Watch in the film. "For someone who has cancer pain, that torturous experience continues for weeks, and sometimes months on end." Unlike so many global health problems, pain treatment is not about money or a lack of drugs, since morphine costs pennies per dose and is easily made. The treatment of pain is complicated by many factors, including drug laws, bureaucratic rigidity and commercial disincentives.
Overall, Freedom from Pain reveals that bureaucratic hurdles, and the chilling effect of the global war on drugs, are the main impediments to a pain free world. Patients will continue to suffer until global bodies actively work with countries to exclude medical morphine from the war on drugs, and change the blunt drug laws that curtail access to legitimate medical opiates worldwide. Uri Fedotov, the executive director of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, admits in the film that the war on drugs is cutting people off from pain medication, but offers little in the way of concrete proposals for changing the status quo.
Freedom from Pain was shot and produced by a team of students and teachers from the University of British Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism International Reporting Program (IRP). Peter W. Klein, an award-winning producer who is the director of the UBC School of Journalism and the IRP, led the project.
Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert.