Opiate Abuse: What Doctors Think

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We hear about it all too often: a life cut short from opiate abuse. Death from drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. While drugs like heroin remain a prime cause of such deaths, most of the more than 38,000 annual drug overdose deaths in the U.S. – 60 percent - are related to pharmaceuticals. And of those, 75 percent involve prescription pain medicines

Many point to the medical profession as one cause of the problem. Physicians overprescribe, they say, and write too many prescriptions. But the fact that more than three out of four people who misuse prescription pain medicines use drugs that are prescribed to someone else is one indication that the problem arises from more than one single cause.

So how do physicians view the issue of prescription drug and opioid abuse?

That’s the subject of the February episode of Physician Focus with the Massachusetts Medical

Participating in this conversation are Richard Pieters, M.D., 2014-2015 President of the Massachusetts Medical Society and Professor of Radiation Oncology and Pediatrics at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester; Daniel Alford, M.D., Director of the Safe and Competent Opioid Prescribing Education program at Boston University School of Medicine and the Director of the Clinical Addiction Research and Education Unit at Boston Medical Center; and program host Barbara Herbert, M.D., Medical Director of Addiction Service at Commonwealth Care Alliance and President-Elect of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Each physician brings his and her personal experiences in treating patients with pain to the discussion. Among the topics addressed are the prevalence of pain as a medical condition, how the health care system treats pain, distinctions among different kinds of pain, what the physicians recommend for the safe management and disposal of prescription pain medicines, and the use of the prescription drug Narcan to prevent deaths from overdose.

Public health and state and federal elected representatives are beginning to take action on the issue of opiate abuse. At the same time, it is important to recognize that many patients experience pain – more than 100 million Americans according to the Institute of Medicine - and those who do experience pain should be able to get the relief they need.

Please tune in to February’s Physician Focus. You’ll not only learn what physicians think about important issue of prescription drug abuse, but also learn how physicians and patients working together can effectively manage pain and help to reduce prescription abuse.

Photo (left to right). Barbara Herbert, M.D., Richard Pieters, M.D., Daniel Alford, M.D., discussing prescription drug abuse this February on Physician Focus.