Colorado Medical Society

Confronting a crisis

Friday, May 20, 2016 10:40 AM

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The medical profession must play a lead role in reversing the opioid epidemic that, far too often, has started from a prescription pad.

For the past 20 years, public policies – well-intended but now known to be flawed – compelled doctors to treat pain more aggressively for the comfort of our patients. But today’s crisis plainly tells us we must be much more cautious with how we prescribe opioids.

At present, nearly 2 million Americans – people across the economic spectrum, in small towns and big cities – suffer from an opioid use disorder. As a result, tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year and more still will die because of a tragic resurgence in the use of heroin.

As a profession that places patient well-being as our highest priority, we must accept responsibility to re-examine prescribing practices. We must begin by preventing our patients from becoming addicted to opioids in the first place. We must work with federal and private health insurers to enable access to multi-disciplinary treatment programs for patients with pain and expand access for medication-assisted treatment for those with opioid use disorders. We must do these things with compassion and attention to the needs of our patients despite conflicting public policies that continue to assert unreasonable expectations for pain control.

“As a practicing emergency physician and AMA President, I call on all physicians to take the following steps – immediately – to reverse the nation’s opioid overdose and death epidemic: