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Opioid Awareness

Striking a Balance When Treating Pain with Opioids

Opioids will claim more than 30,000 lives this year. High profile cases of abuse have put the issue on the front burner. While the attention has helped erode the stigma of addiction, leading to an understanding it is a disease much like other chronic illnesses, the downside is that medications are often too difficult for those in need to obtain.

Abusers aren’t the norm

Over the past seven years, restrictions on the drugs have tightened significantly. Compounding that, some physicians are reticent to prescribe opioids for fear of legal battles, insurance nightmares and patient safety.

The reality however, is that more than 90 percent patients using prescription opioids do not abuse them. Taken as prescribed, opioids can be used to manage pain safely and cost effectively with a goal of returning patients to active lives and take their place as productive members of society.

Who’s impacted?

The casualties of our war on opioids are the 100 million Americans who suffer from pain. These are people that benefit from properly prescribed medication but have recently found it much more difficult to get their prescription filled. Many are forced to refill their prescriptions over shorter times and being subjected to urine drug screens.

“We need to have balance,” says Richard DeVito, Jr. “There are patients who truly need opioids and they are not getting the drugs they need to have a reasonable quality of life.” DeVito is the publisher of the Journal of Opioid Management and vice president of the International Conference on Opioids, which brings together the brightest minds in opioid analgesics with a goal of improving patient outcomes and reducing patient and physician risks.

DeVito spearheaded the Opioid Safety Tips Card project, a yellow card that can be distributed and hung on refrigerators with five crucial tips. Most importantly, he concludes, medications must be taken as prescribed. These prescriptions have “significant street value.

Adds DeVito, “They should be treated as you would a loaded fire arm; keep them locked away from little fingers or those looking to divert them.”

Faye Brookman, [email protected]

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