Dr. Kevin Most: Substance Abuse and Opioid Addiction
David Feherty shared with us yesterday the passing of his son Shey from a drug overdose. It was Shey’s 29th birthday. The story highlights the growing epidemic we have in this country with substance abuse and more specifically opioid addiction. The family was well aware of the struggles Shey was having and were working with him on this addiction. His father David, a previous professional golfer and now a current Golf Chanel analyst has fought with alcohol and drug problems thru his life. He is very open about his fight with addiction and how sobriety has saved his life.
Recent studies have shown that over 2 million Americans are addicted to opiates and a multiple of that abuse them. For those of you unclear what drugs we are talking about, opiates include Tylenol #3, Norco, Fentanyl, Vicodin, Dilaudid are a few. These are highly addictive and the basis is from the opium plant and heroin. These drugs do have a legitimate use in medical care for severe pain, cancer patients and some other conditions. Recent years have seen a push for physicians to decrease the amount of opiates they prescribe and to start looking for alternatives to treat pain.
In 2016 more Americans died from drug overdoses than the total number of American deaths during the Vietnam war. Close to 150 Americans die each day from overdoses with the large majority due to opioids. Opiates cause the body to stop breathing and death occurs. We do have a great medication that reverses the effects of opiates called Narcan. In many areas of the country we are working to get narcan into the hands of first responders, police and paramedics. We are also looking at many states that will make this an over the counter medication so family members of addicts can have this life saving drug when needed.
It is interesting that we have heard over the past few days that we need a presidential push to call this an epidemic and put a war on this to stop or slow this problem as it has reached a point in some areas of the country where it is rampant. We need more treatment centers, we need more education, we need more first responders equipped with the supplies needed, we need to stop or slow the flow of drugs into this country and we need to stamp out the drug pusher pipeline. This fight will not be a single focus if it is to succeed
This is not just a inner city drug problem, this is being seen across the country in every demographic known.
One big message, if you have any narcotics “left over” from an old injury, get rid of them. This is a drug that is stolen from homes by friends, families, guests and thieves. Sophisticated youths are taking the meds and replacing them with other basic white pills so the theft is not noted.
I am sure we will spend more time on this issue as the president takes some steps to fight this condition.