Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Opioid Epidemic. The Role of Healthcare Workers in Resolving it

It is no secret that there is an opioid epidemic and that is causing numerous deaths related to overdoses of heroin and other opioid “painkillers”. Also, there is the added problem of infections caused by the use of intravenous street drugs, which include HIV and hepatitis B and C. Many people get addicted to opioid “painkillers” in the healthcare setting. Opioid use usually starts as treatment for painful conditions, however, due to the potent addictive effects of these drugs, dependance can follow. Once a person is dependent on opioids it is only a matter of time for illegal consumption to begin. 

For many years, there has been a very liberal approach to the prescription and ordering of opiate analgesics. This has served as one of the starting points for this epidemic and all the social issues derived from it. It is also no secret that there is a black market for the opioid pills, where they have a high price. It is also no secret that a large percentage of filled opioid prescriptions end up on the black market

Physicians and other healthcare workers have become aware of this issue and there are many initiatives, starting from personal practice preferences, to healthcare institution based approaches. There are a variety of non-opioid analgesics than can be used in combination, together with surgical techniques such as nerve blocks that can be useful in certain cases. Opioids can be left as last resort medication and they can still be used liberally (in a controlled fashion) in end of life situations, such as hospice care 

Marco A. Ramos MD

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