Op-Ed Opioids in HoCo


Pharmageddon Strikes Houston County, Again

The onslaught of prescription drugs continues to impact Houston County. In February the Telegraph reported “More than 50 arrested in Houston County drug bust” and on April 15 reported “Warner Robins doctor arrested, charged in prescription fraud case.”

Indeed, this represents the tip of the prescription drug iceberg in America. As CDC Director Tom Frieden mentioned, “The opioid epidemic is devastating American families and communities.”[1]

Undeniably Pharmageddon continues to ravage our country. Today there are 13 million users, 2 million abusers, and 165,000 have died since 1999 from opioid overdose.[2] Moreover, 2,500 teenagers every day start using prescription painkillers, leading to a new wave of addicts. [3]

More shocking facts: every 19 minutes, someone in the United States dies from an unintentional prescription drug overdose.[4] Today one in 12 Americans can say they know someone who died from a prescription drug overdose.[5] No other disease can make that claim.

Overall, there were 47,055 overdose deaths reported in 2014; this equates to 128 deaths each day.[6] To put these deaths into perspective – this is equivalent to the 130 deaths when Islamic terrorists attacked Paris on the evening of November 13, 2015.

Without a doubt, if Islamic terrorists were killing 128 Americans daily in our country, there would be a huge public uproar, Congress would be up in arms rattling its sword calling for military action, and the media would be swarming for a scapegoat to blame.

However, when 128 people die from medication overdoses, there has been reluctance by medical reporters to accuse the medical profession for promiscuous prescribing or blame Big Pharma for its shady promotions of these dangerous drugs.

The CDC recently released its Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain — United States, 2016,[7] revealing that MDs prescribed 259 million prescriptions for opioids in 2014, equivalent to one for every American adult.[8]

Little does the public realize Perdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, was convicted of misinforming the public about the safety of its opioid painkiller and the $634 million court fine was pocket change to a company that since 1996 has earned more than $27 billion on sales of OxyContin alone. [9]

The responsibility for this Pharmageddon tragedy is clear. “The prescription overdose epidemic is doctor-driven,” said Dr. Frieden who suggests MDs have essentially replaced street corner drug pushers as the most important suppliers of narcotics.[10],[11] A Harvard poll found 34 percent of the public also blame doctors for inappropriately prescribing the medications.[12]

Let me offer hope to people who are taking painkillers for chronic pain there are nondrug recommendations to control pain.

In January 2015, the Joint Commission updated its evidence-based guideline on pain management, Clarification of the Pain Management Standard, recommending acupuncture therapy, chiropractic therapy, osteopathic manipulative treatment, massage therapy, physical therapy, relaxation therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy.[13]

Don’t be misled that drugs are your only options for chronic pain. Also, please keep in mind this warning by Donald Teater, MD, National Safety Council: “Opioids do not kill pain. They kill people.”[14]

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Press Release, CDC Vital Signs: Overdose of Prescription OPR—United States, 1999-2008; 2011: www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/t1101_presecription_pain_relievers.html.

[2] Assessing Benefits And Harms Of Opioid Therapy, CDC,


[3] http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/prescription/abuse-international-statistics.html

[4] American Public Health Association, “Prevention and Intervention Strategies to Decrease Misuse of Prescription Pain Medication”

[5] Dylan Scott, “1 in 3 Americans blame doctors for national opioid epidemic, ATAT-Harvard poll finds.” Boston Globe, March 17, 2016

[6] Drug overdose deaths hit record numbers in 2014, CDC Newsroom Releases, December 18, 2015

[7] http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/prescribing/guideline.html

[8] CDC Vital Signs, http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/pdf/2014-07-vitalsigns.pdf

[9] “Purdue Pharma has privately identified about 1,800 doctors who may have recklessly prescribed the painkiller to addicts and dealers, yet it has done little to alert authorities,” by Scott Glover and Lisa Girion, Los Angeles Times, August 11, 2013

[10] Robert Lowes, CDC Issues Opioid Guidelines for ‘Doctor-Driven’ Epidemic, www.medscape.com, March 15, 2016

[11] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Press Release, CDC Vital Signs: Overdose of Prescription OPR—United States, 1999-2008; 2011: www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/t1101_prescription_pain_relievers.html.

[12] Dylan Scott, “1 in 3 Americans blame doctors for national opioid epidemic, ATAT-Harvard poll finds.” Boston Globe magazine, March 17, 2016

[13] http://www.jointcommission.org/assets/1/23/jconline_november_12_14.pdf

[14] Da Hee Han, PharmD, “Survey Finds Most Doctors Prescribe Opioids for Longer Than CDC Advises,” MPR Daily Dose, March 28, 2016