Itasca, IL – The National Safety Council is grieving over the new CDC data showing a 30% year-over-year increase in opioid overdoses seen in hospital emergency rooms. For the last two decades, the United States has been in the throes of an unprecedented opioid epidemic. The new data demand that we take an all-hands-on-deck approach.
Millions of Americans suffer with the disease of opioid addiction; hundreds of thousands have lost their lives because of it. We cannot wait any longer to take meaningful action, and the onus to do so falls to all of us. Practitioners must be educated about the risks of prescribing opioids and need to follow the CDC prescribing guideline for chronic pain so they can provide the best care with the lowest risk of patient addiction. They need to check the state prescription drug monitoring programs to identify patients at risk for opioid addiction and connect them to treatment. Treatment options and naloxone, which can stop and reverse an opioid overdose, need to be available, easily accessible and affordable.
It is imperative that Americans understand the nature of addiction – a disease, not a decision – so no one is afraid or ashamed to ask for help, and we must dispose of our unused medicines so they do not fall into the wrong hands. Employers should better understand the cost of this epidemic to them and understand how they, too, can help by implementing policies, educating employees and providing alternative pain treatment coverage as part of their health benefits. We can also advocate for our own safety by learning about which medicines contain opioids and affixing "Opioids: Warn Me" labels to our insurance cards to facilitate a discussion with our prescribers about risks and alternatives for pain relief.
If we do not act, more people will die, and our fight to Stop Everyday Killers will become ever more difficult.