Well-known addiction specialist and media personality Dr. Drew recently weighed in on the current opioid addiction crisis. When asked who or what was to blame for the 450 percent increase in opioid addiction between 2010 and 2016, Dr. Drew said one word: doctors.
In an interview with KABC radio, Dr. Drew said “he believes physicians are over-prescribing opioids such as Oxycodone, Vicodin and Oxycontin for pain management and then abruptly cutting their patients off from these drugs.”
- “When opiate addicts are suddenly cut off from prescribed opiates”, Dr. Drew explains, “they are desperate to find another source of opiates. Right now, the easiest and cheapest alternative is fentanyl” or heroin”.
Skyrocketing to fame as the host of the popular VH1 show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, the board-certified addiction specialist responded candidly to an analysis published in the New York Times showing a 19 percent increase in drug-related deaths across the U.S. in 2016. The NYT story also affirmed that drug overdoses cause more deaths in people under 50 years old than accidents or chronic diseases.
- In fact, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death in young and middle-aged adults.
Dr. Drew unequivocally blames physicians who continue prescribing highly addictive pain medications even though they know many people are at an elevated risk for becoming opioid addicts. He also believes the stigma surrounding drug addiction prevents doctors from discussing the risks of prescription pain pill addiction.
“Physicians are afraid of talking about addiction”, Dr. Drew explained during his interview with KABC radio. “They feel like diagnosing a patient with addiction is similar to judging them. However, 70 to 80 percent of those taking prescription opiates develop debilitating consequences due to abusing opiates”.
To further support Dr. Drew’s claim that doctors are fueling the opioid epidemic, an editorial published in The New England Journal of Medicine claimed the medical community erroneously cited another NEJM editorial published in the 1980s to support the idea that opioids were not addictive.
The beginning of the opioid crisis started, in part, when doctors were told pain pills held a low risk of addiction. According to the editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine: “This short letter published over 30 years ago was, unfortunately, widely referred to as valid support for the claim. This happened even though there was zero evidence provided by the writers”.
Reducing The Opioid Crisis
In addition to providing educational initiatives to communities hardest hit by the opioid crisis, state and federal government agencies are also funding PDMPs (prescription drug monitoring programs), establishing naloxone distribution centers to rapidly provide naloxone to opioid abusers and aggressively investigating and shutting down “pill mills”. Doctors are also relying more on holistic pain management programs involving dietary supplements, acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, meditation and counseling to help people with chronic pain learn to live without prescription pain pills.