The new discipline of palliative care helped to establish the right to pain relief at the end of life and the necessity of using opioids to achieve that goal. Professional pain organizations followed the United Nations’ model for universal human rights in their declaration of a universal right to pain manage-ment. Both palliative care and pain medicine specialties worked to establish pain as a legitimate focus of medical treatment separate from its association with disease. Pain intensity became the metric used to determine the need for treatment and the success of that treatment. Opioids were favored as the most reliable and feasible means to reduced pain intensity. The Harrison Act of 1914 restricted legitimate opioid use to that prescribed by medical professionals as analgesics. This legislation helped establish opioids as specific painkillers that had a distinct capacity to induce addiction. This under-standing of opioids as having distinct and separable analgesic and addictive potential was challenged by the 1970s discovery of an endogenous opioid system, which integrates pain and reward functions to support survival. Our modern pain neurophysiology places the patient with pain in a passive position from which it makes sense to assert a right to pain relief. To prevent future opioid epidemics we need to abandon clinical outpatient use of pain intensity scores and redefine the medical necessity of pain
treatment as less about the reduction of pain intensity and more about the capacity to pursue personally valued activities.