A National Public Health Emergency

06Aug17

The Opioid Commission has told President Trump to declare a national public health emergency to combat the ongoing opioid crisis. They think he is the person who can bring the required amount of intensity to this emergency. Most often this type of declaration is reserved for health emergencies, such as, most recently, the Zika crisis in Puerto Rico last year. Trump’s declaration would empower his cabinet to act boldly and focus on funding to deal with this loss of life–142 Americans die EVERY DAY from drug overdoses.

As the opioid crisis, epidemic, continues, doctors are being criminally charged when their patients overdose. Why? Because they ARE responsible when they overprescribe, when they stop caring about the person behind the prescription and just give them more pills. Is it all their fault? Of course not. But they are a part of this crisis, and I think we are starting to pull our heads out of the sand and realize there are unscrupulous doctors out there that care more for the bottom line than they do about their patients. Here are some examples…

A Texas doctor faces charges of illegally distributing drugs in connection with at least seven patient deaths (http://www.ksstradio.com/2017/07/13/doctor-arrested-providing-drugs-led-least-7-overdose-deaths/),

A doctor in Oklahoma was charged with 5 counts of second-degree murder for prescribing “horrifyingly excessive amounts” of potent drugs http://abcnews.go.com/US/oklahoma-attorney-general-charges-doctor-counts-degree-murder/story?id=48239786),

In 2015, Dr. Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Tseng became the first doctor to be convicted of murder for overprescribing opioid painkillers. She was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison,

The number of doctors that were penalized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration has grown more than fivefold in recent years. The agency took action against 88 doctors in 2011 and 479 in 2016. Although cases like the above are still rare, the cases are increasing. Even so, they are not the only problem prescribers. Well intentioned doctors, dentists, and other prescribers are putting dangerous drugs into the hands of patients who are becoming addicted, putting them into the bathroom cabinets of homes all over the country.

Are some doctors being falsely accused? You bet, that’s what happens in our judicial system, people are falsely accused all the time. Does that mean we stop investigating? I sure hope not.

I’m certainly not saying opioids should never be used. But I am saying that we need to be very careful about how we are using them. We need better alternatives to pain management. We need insurance to cover those alternative options. We need to try those alternatives FIRST, before opioids. Or, at least, use opioids short term while waiting for alternative options. We need to become fully aware of those doctors that run pill mills, and stop them. We need to continue to educate prescribers and patients on the dangers of these drugs. We need to increase the help that is available to addicts. We often hear about the addicts that succumb to the disease, how about we start to focus on the success stories so that people who are struggling know there is hope. There are those of us who have fought the disease of addiction and won, and continue to win-one day at a time.

In Wisconsin we have the HOPE agenda and recently more bills were passed to help struggling addicts. Check them out here… http://www.thewheelerreport.com/wheeler_docs/files/0615nygren.pdf. There is more work to do, but it is a step in the right direction. At least we are talking about it and increasing services.

References:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/31/health/opioid-commission-emergency-declaration/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/31/health/opioid-doctors-responsible-overdose/index.html

About the Author

Kristin Waite-Labott is a registered nurse and recovering addict who has firsthand experience with the challenges of addiction. She now works as the Head Nurse Coach at Veritus, a virtual treatment program for nurses with substance use and mental health disorders, and is dedicated to helping nurses overcome addiction and making a difference in the lives of others. Kristin is passionate about addressing the growing problem of addiction among healthcare professionals and encourages open discussions and action to prevent it from spreading further.

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