As is evidenced in the above graphic, the use of opioid medications has reached a significant number of Americans. The scale of this problem cannot be underestimated given the sheer numbers listed in this graphic. Millions of people are misusing their prescribed medication. Tens of thousands of people have died from overdose, and hundreds of thousands of people graduated to the use of heroin, further leading to worsened morbidity and death.
It has become more and more commonplace to read in the media about celebrities who have succumbed to opioid related death. Recently, famous musicians like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Prince bring to life the fact that this problem can affect anyone the respective of their socioeconomic status.
There are new initiatives and increased safeguards that are being introduced to combat this problem. One of the most important ways to ensure that these medications are being prescribed appropriately, is to make sure that they are being prescribed by a physician who is adequately trained in the use of opioids for pain management.
Equally important is the need for regular follow-up as well as frequent evaluation of the use of this medication. Part of this also involves the pursuit of alternative means of symptom management that can be employed to reduce the total amount of this type of medication being used. Interventional approaches to symptoms, use of adjuvant medications, scheduled opioid rotations and holidays; permit these medications to maintain their greatest utility and safety. Even the type of opioid use is important. The recent release of "Abuse Deterrent Opioids" help to decrease the tampering and misuse of these medications, and will hopefully lead to a decrease in the number of deaths related to the abuse and misuse of these agents.
For the patient who suffers from chronic pain, and has always used their medication appropriately many of these changes present a significant challenge. What may have seemed to have "always worked", may now need to be reevaluated. Given all of the information that we have learned about these substances we must be able to maintain objectivity in their prescription, as well as the need for possible discontinuance. One should always recognize, however, that none of the measures being undertaken are personal in any way; they are merely being done to maximize efficacy and safety.
Here at Alliance Spine and Pain Management we take the issues related to the opioid epidemic very seriously. As a Board-Certified Anesthesiologist and Pain Management Physician by the American Board of Medical Specialties you can rely on Dr. Sharma to help guide you to the best and safest treatment plan possible. Dr. Sharma personally ensures that our patients are being managed using best practice guidelines as well as the highest level of safety possible when prescribing these medications. We employ state of the art means of evaluation, monitoring and support for our patients to create the safest environment possible for them.
Everyone acknowledges the utility of the opioid medications in the appropriate setting. Nobody can refute the fact that we must remain vigilant in their usage as well as maintain the highest standards in their prescription.