opioids

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While pharmaceutical companies are making billions in painkiller profits, it’s the public sector that ends up bearing the burden and cost of the fallout that accompanies skyrocketing sales of highly addictive prescription opioids. After the jump is a Pump Handle Q&A with two public health officials at the forefront of the opioid abuse epidemic within America’s big cities.

When it comes to substance abuse disorders, public health and the public at-large are hardly on the same page — in fact, they’re not even reading the same book. And that’s a serious problem for sustaining and strengthening efforts to treat addiction and advancing effective public health policy.

“If you really look at how pain affects people and what it means to have pain…you start to view it more as a social phenomenon.” These are words from Dr. Daniel Carr, who says the time for a population-based approach doesn’t begin with misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers; it begins, in fact, with how we interpret the contributors to pain in the first place.

A decade ago, only about 10 percent of the patients at Cincinnati’s Center for Chemical Addictions Treatment were admitted for opioid addiction and abuse. During the treatment center’s last fiscal year, that number was up to 64 percent. The numbers reflect a startling trend in Ohio and throughout the nation — a trend that public health workers are taking to task.

Since 2000, overdose deaths due to prescription painkillers in Utah have increased by more than 400 percent. By 2006, more Utahans were losing their lives to prescription drug overdoses than to motor vehicle crashes. For Dr. Lynn Webster, a longtime pain management physician, the startling numbers were a call to action.