Millions of people are misusing this prescribed medication. Tens of thousands of people have died from overdose, and hundreds of thousands of people graduated to the use of heroin, further leading to worsened morbidity and death.
It is more and more commonplace to read in the media about celebrities who have succumbed to opioid related death. For example, the stories of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Prince show this problem can affect anyone regardless of socioeconomic status.
New initiatives and increased safeguards are being introduced to combat this problem. One of the most important ways to ensure that these medications are being prescribed appropriately, is to make sure that they are being prescribed by a physician who is adequately trained in the use of opioids for pain management.
Equally important is the need for regular follow-up as well as frequent evaluation of the use of this medication. Part of this also involves the pursuit of alternative means of symptom management that can be employed to reduce the total amount of this type of medication being used. Interventional approaches to symptoms, use of adjuvant medications, scheduled opioid rotations and holidays; permit these medications to maintain their greatest utility and safety. Even the type of opioid use is important.
For the patient who suffers from chronic pain, and has always used their medication appropriately, many of these changes present a significant challenge. What may have seemed to have “always worked”, may now need to be re-evaluated. Given all of the information that we have learned about these substances we must be able to maintain objectivity in their prescription, as well as the need for possible discontinuance. One should always recognize, however, that none of the measures being undertaken are personal in any way; they are merely being done to maximize efficacy and safety.
At our medical practice we take the issues related to the opioid epidemic very seriously. As a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and Pain Management Physician by the American Board of Medical Specialties, you can rely on me to help guide you to the best and safest treatment plan possible. We employ state of the art means of evaluation, monitoring and support for our patients to create the safest environment possible for them.
Everyone acknowledges the utility of the opioid medications in the appropriate setting. Nobody can refute the fact that we must remain vigilant in their usage as well as maintain the highest standards in their prescription.