Opioids: What is being done locally

Published: Mar. 17, 2016 at 6:57 PM PDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Have you ever gone to the doctor for a sore throat and been prescribed Vicodin? It is something that happens every day in the U.S. and it is why the CDC is cracking down on the over-prescription of opioids.

America's love affair with prescription drugs began in the 90s when narcotic pain killers left the hospital and headed home in the form of a pill.

"Pain killers began being prescribed at such a high rate, and the folks who were prescribing them didn't necessarily have any training," said Jennifer Delette-Snyder, Executive Director of Join Together Northern Nevada.

Delette-Snyder says in the last two decades, opioids have become commonplace. From a chronic pain to dental procedures, doctors are prescribing very dangerous pills.

"Think of Heroin. An opioid in a pill is the synthetic form of that type of a drug," said Delette-Snyder

19,000 Americans died of opioid overdose in 2014. A fact that caught the attention of the CDC that same year.

"A surge in painkiller prescribing has been the main driving force over this epidemic and of the heroin epidemic," said Dr. Tom Frieden, Director of the CDC.

This week the agency started to combat the problem by issuing new guidelines the prescriptions of opioids. The guidelines say opioids should not be the default solution for pain care. When they are used, the CDC says opioids should be prescribed in the lowest dosage possible and doctors should avoid extended release pills. Finally, doctors should only prescribe a small number of pills, the CDC says.

"This is a great guideline for physicians on how to prescribe and maybe not prescribe opioids to patients," said Delette-Snyder.

"People don't realize that these opioids are lethal. No one ever takes a pill thinking that it is going to kill them and this is the type of awareness that we are trying to build," said Teresa Benitez-Thompson, Nevada Assemblywoman from District 27.

Benitez-Thompson along with other legislators pushed laws through last year that aim to reduce opioid abuse in Nevada.

“We have so many deaths by opioid overdoses, we have so many people who have become addicted and those two numbers are parallel," said Benitez-Thompson.

Doctors in Nevada now have to log opioid prescriptions in a database. The practice prevents patients from doctor shopping as well as prevents doctors from accidentally over prescribing.

"It has opened their eyes to be able to check the registry, and see what is exactly being prescribed to patients by other doctors," said Benitez-Thompson.

Back at JTNN, Delette-Snyder says both the CDC actions and the legislature actions have the potential to save lives, but she says we need to stay the course and only look to opioids for only the most extreme situations.

"In the 80s, most people who went hope from the hospital after a surgery or something, they were given Ibuprofen. They were not given anything stronger than that until OxyContin came out," said Delette-Snyder.

Physicians could go back to prescribing only Ibuprofen, but only time will tell if they will. The CDC guidelines are only guidelines. They are not a mandate.