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Friday, May 13, 2016

Ending the Opioid Epidemic

prescription addiction
Despite the fact that opioid narcotics are meant to be used for acute severe pain, they are most commonly doled out to treat chronic pain—that is pain that is persistent over long periods of time. Most of the nation is aware that the American opioid epidemic is the result of over-prescribing painkillers for just about any severity of pain. The market share of opioid prescriptions is written by primary care physicians, the majority of which lack any specific pain management training.

For years and years, doctors have handed out large, high-dose prescription painkillers for extended periods of time regardless of the addictive and potentially deadly nature of such drugs. Such irresponsible prescribing has resulted in elevated addiction rates, overdoses, and thousands of deaths that could have been prevented. On top of that, Americans experiencing any level of pain expect to walk out of the doctor’s office with a prescription to ease their pain—such as oxycodone or hydrocodone.

As a nation we have forgotten that pain can, more times than not, be treated without having to turn to opioids. It is almost as if we have been conditioned to think there is only one solution to every type of pain. As the nation’s lawmakers continue to mitigate the opioid addiction crisis, many doctors are not coming to terms with the fact that they were a major cause that led to the epidemic and it will be up to them to bring it to an end. CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta wrote an op-ed last week, stating that:

“We as doctors need to engage our patients and discuss treatment with them, whether its short term opioids or alternatives like physical and occupational therapy. We need to help set realistic expectations for our patients: Living entirely pain free is not always possible. As doctors, we need to have follow-up conversations with our patients to see how treatment is going. If we better understand our patients, we can provide better treatment and help develop pain strategies that are effective and safe.” 

This week, Dr. Gupta went on CNN’s "Anderson Cooper 360" for a town hall special to discuss and inform the public about opioid narcotics, particularly reaching out to: parents, spouses, siblings et.al. The good news is you can watch this special online or on DEMAND via your cable company. The special is called: Prescription Addiction: Made in the USA.

If you are having trouble viewing the trailer, you can see it here.

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