Opioid Addiction and The Practice of Medicine

We began our discussion by reading the opening versus of Psalm 88. This is a psalm in which the afflicted cry out to the Lord. We discussed what emotions verses 1-8 relate. Words like despair, hopelessness and anguish were used. We discussed personnel instances in which we have experienced such emotions. It was then suggested that these type of emotions can often be those of someone trapped in opioid addiction.

We then spent some time discussing what was our understanding of the extent of the opioid crisis in the United States. Some of the statistics that were brought out included that there were 20,000 deaths from opioids in 2014, there were 4.3 million people who reported non-medical use of opioids last year, and there has been a 200% increase in opioid deaths since 2000. It is sometimes assumed that most opioids are prescribed by surgeons following surgery but over half of all prescriptions are written by primary care providers. We talked about our notions concerning the cause of abuse of these drugs.

We then spent some time discussing what our own practice experience was in prescribing these medications. It is very specialty specific as to how often we find ourselves dealing with this issue. Some of the members of the group expressed doubt that an opioid is ever needed or at least rarely needed. Others, due to the types of surgery they do have a constant need to carefully monitor and prescribe these meds. We also discussed our experience with dealing with patient who we suspect have abused opioid medication. This gave rise to the question as to what is the appropriate way to manage these patients. Many believe caring for this problem can only be done by someone Board Certified in pain management. But there is a great problem with that as there are few providers willing to take on these patients. We then read from 2Cor 1:3-4 which urges us to have compassion on all people just as Christ had compassion on us. We discussed compassionate ways to treat these patients that may better serve them and gradually wean them off their medications.

The most moving portion of the evening was when we shared how addictions have impacted our own families and even ourselves. We shared how this has affected and changed us. We then prayed for each other and our families.

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