125 people die every day in the US from opiate abuse, mostly heroin and prescription Fetanyl.
125 people die every day
This recent article, one of many, describes how the overprescription of opiates for pain relief has led to a dangerous epidemic across the country. It is long past time to ask – how many of these patients can be treated with medications or procedures that have fewer side effects and are less likely to create dependence?
A patient recently told me of a visit to a local Emergency Room. She was in acute abdominal pain, and before she knew it she was being given a dose of morphine (which she declined). Other patients with chronic pain report being offered narcotic pain relievers before other, less damaging remedies have been attempted. I can’t tell you how many times patients with osteoarthritis are placed on mood-altering meds with heavy side affects, when they have never been counseled to try aspirin, or exercise, let alone massage therapy or physical therapy. Patients who have had joint replacement surgery are sent home with huge doses of narcotics that can lead to addiction, with very little warning of the dangers of long term use.
I’m not a doctor, but most of the doctors I know are starting to question the practices that have led to such heavy reliance on the latest and the most expensive medications. It seems to me that, especially for chronic conditions, you want to start out with the least intrusive methods before recommending substances that have the potential to create addiction.
This is especially true among our young people. If you walk the streets near downtown Syracuse you will find dozens if not hundreds of homeless men and women. This is a group of people who have always been prone to substance abuse. But in recent years something has changed. We now have many young people whose drug addiction began after a high school or college athletic injury. Placed on opiates for pain relief, they turn to heroin when the prescription runs out.
Overprescribing narcotics intersects with cheap and readily available heroin to put our young people at risk. Waiting lists for addiction treatment are ridiculously long – it takes months to get help even after the addict decides to try to get clean.
Something has to change.