For too many Americans, doctor’s orders push them toward a deadly addiction.
Overdoses of prescription opioids and heroin reached record numbers in 2014, killing 28,647 users, ravaging families and ruining lives. The numbers continue to grow.
Finally the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stepped up and told doctors to end the madness.
Doctors shouldn’t prescribe opioid drugs for chronic pain except for active cancer, palliative and end-of-life care. When opioids are used, the CDC says, the lowest possible effective dosage should be prescribed.
While the move is too late for some and is nonbinding, it should help. Most doctors pay attention to guidelines from the CDC.
It’s taken years and too many lives, but it seems America is finally taking responsibility.
Last month, President Barack Obama proposed $1 billion to address addiction. And the usually divided Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill earlier this month aimed at helping local communities deal with the problem.
For more than a decade some doctors have been generously prescribing powerful pain medication for even minor bouts of pain. A stunning 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers were written in 2012. That’s a bottle of pills for nearly every American.
And abuse of what’s in that bottle happens to be the strongest risk factor for heroin use. That’s because the prescribed drugs mimic many of the same pleasure and reward sensations that the street drug provides.
Now, you are more likely to die from an overdose of prescription opioids or heroin than you are from a car crash.
The heroin epidemic and the drug trade that prescription drugs have fueled were in part a creation of pharmaceutical companies; there’s no denying it. Now, America is trying to reverse it. It can, but it must deal with a generation who found that crushing pills and sniffing them could send a world of pleasure and a lifetime of regret through your body.
Since 1999, deaths from prescription opioids and heroin have quadrupled.
The rise of the epidemic happened to coincide with the debut of the painkiller OxyContin, which was first approved for use by the Federal Drug Administration in December 1995. It quickly became a bestseller thanks to its aggressive marketing.
OxyContin executives sold its time-release formula as providing nearly addiction-proof relief, but in 2007 paid out $600 million for fraudulently marketing the drug. By that time, the monster was loose.
There is a place for these drugs in health care, but it should be very limited. Doctors should take these new CDC guidelines to heart. If they don’t, it will be up to lawmakers to provide stronger limitations.
Cincinatti native David Bauer is an experienced editor for Civitas Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.