Different Takes: More Bad News And (Sometimes) Good News About Opioids; Another Epidemic In The Making
Opinion writers focus on the opioid epidemic and the growing dependence on tranquilizers.
The Washington Post:
Another Harsh Truth About Opioids: They’re Not A Better Way To Manage Pain
Opioid overdoses, both fatal and nonfatal, increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states, according to the latest review of emergency-room admissions data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published Tuesday. On the same day, the Journal of the American Medical Association released the results of a year-long study from Minneapolis-area Veterans Affairs clinics showing that opioids were no more effective against common forms of back and joint pain than acetaminophen. These new findings underscore a tragic irony of the deadly epidemic: Though it has by now morphed into a problem of both licit substances, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, and illicit ones, such as heroin, the opioid epidemic’s roots lie in a wave of permissive prescribing of opioids that turns out, in hindsight, to have been unjustifiable even as good pain-management practice. (3/9)
The New York Times:
The Benefits Of Opioids
About 100 million Americans — or nearly one out of every three — suffers from chronic pain. For a good number of them, the pain is severe. Some haven’t found any way to reduce the pain, and it dominates their lives. Others have found successful strategies, including exercise, stretching, physical therapy, meditation and medicine. Of those who use medicine, a significant number rely on opioids. By now, you may think of opioids as nothing other than a problem. And they are indeed a problem, responsible for many of the 64,000 fatal drug overdoses in the United States in 2016. But opioids aren’t only a problem. (David Leonhardt, 3/9)
Judgment Calls: Who Really Needs A Painkiller?
Patients in pain present a daily conundrum for physicians like me. Each one is set against the backdrop of epidemic opioid misuse in our country. Overdose deaths have tripled in the past decade, and addiction has grown into a full-fledged societal calamity fanned by overindulgent prescription pens. Now doctors are pulled in opposite directions by an individual’s pain and a society’s crisis. Do we prescribe opioids or not? (Jonathan Resiman, 3/10)
Fentanyl Adds A Deadly Twist To The Opioid Epidemic
For the sake of almost 24,000 families devastated by a fentanyl overdose each year, parents, teachers, pop culture icons, political and religious leaders, and health care professionals must take an active role to dissuade young Americans from taking illegal drugs in the first place. But in order for the message to get out there, and to prevent more senseless tragedies like the one the Manning family experienced, the media must recognize that fentanyl has become the new face of America’s opioid epidemic. (Newt Gingrich and Lee Habeeb, 3/10)
America's Next Big Drug Problem: Benzodiazepines
Imagine it were possible to return to the time before opioid use soared in the U.S. -- to the early 1990s, before so many doctors came to overprescribe Oxycontin, Vicodin and the like for every imaginable kind of pain; before millions became addicted; before prescription opioid users switched to heroin and deadly street fentanyl. Back then, the crisis might have been nipped in the bud. Today, the U.S. may stand at another such moment. Its next huge drug problem seems likely to be benzodiazepines. Better known as Xanax, Valium and Klonopin, they are tranquilizers used to treat anxiety and insomnia -- maladies at least as universal and hard to measure and cure as pain. In this century, the number of adults filling benzodiazepine prescriptions has increased nearly 70 percent, and the quantities taken have tripled. (3/9)