Review of Haider Warraich’s THE SONG OF OUR SCARS

The Song of Our Scars: The Untold Story of Pain by Haider Warraich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Approaching a book written by a physician tackling the topic of pain left me apprehensive. I’d read an OpEd piece by Dr. Warraich, though, and he’d expressed the importance of finding a new way forward from the disaster of the opioid debacle. His words prompted enough curiosity for me to explore his view on the topic.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Dr. Warraich provides an unflinching dive into the nightmare of the opioid crisis, assigning blame where it belongs: the pharmaceutical companies and the FDA officials that allowed OxyCotin to flood the market. The cold facts attached to the cyclic influence the poppy’s narcotics have played throughout the world leave you staring into the medicine cabinet with critical eyes. To say nothing of the jaundiced eye one casts upon the history books (a tale for another narrative, unfortunately). It lays bare the origin story of the literal hell that’s pit doctors and chronic pain patients against each other for the past decade – if not longer. (Maybe the battle’s been waged since the beginning of time)

The book is more than the discussion of the failure of medicine to protect patients from the greed of corporate America, though. It’s an open hand to every person that’s stepped through the doors of a physician’s office and mentioned a pain descriptor, only to find an arched eyebrow the first response. Pages of people failed by the medical community through lack of systems, willful ignorance, and even prejudice. Dr. Wairrach establishes a collective voice of chronic pain sufferers, clamoring for visibility in a world determined to thrust them into the shadows of the world. And as one of their number, his voice rings with equal authority and sympathy. The words echo cases anyone who’s experienced such trauma can understand – and hopefully engender outrage in those who haven’t stood across the ER bed from such blatant disregard.

Naturally, I don’t agree with everything Dr. Wairrach writes. Despite the endnotes of research, I shook my head over the descriptions of will and emotional control over pain. After decades spent fighting a malfunctioning nervous system, I promise if any truth lay behind the theory that I could wield influence over my nerves, I’d have unlocked the secret by now. I believe the practice only works for those with certain conditions (e.g., nothing so debilitating as fibromyalgia). However, this is science, and there’s nothing as questionable or fallible as science. And I’m at least grateful to see the depiction of people finding relief from the horror of life with pain.

The book offers a window into the lives of anyone with pain: chronic, acute, or something between the two. It’s the treatise on the topic that no one’s offered. And I thank Dr. Wairrach for his bravery in tackling it.

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