The heroin epidemic has hit the Midstate and the county hard in the last few years, and among the different facets of the problem is heroin’s link to prescription opioids.
Officials see prescription painkillers as the first step that many people take in an addiction that is leading to an increasing number of deaths. With opioid drugs such as OxyContin and Oxycodone being much more expensive than heroin, those addicted to narcotics are turning to street drugs to get their high.
A form of prevention starts with those prescribing highly addictive opioids for chronic pain. Along with dentists, one of the largest groups of people prescribing opioids are family physicians.
Boiling Springs Family Medicine physician Dr. Chad Jumper talked about the issue surrounding prescription drug abuse, what is currently being done to prevent abuse and what he would like to see happen.
Q: What training do family physicians get in terms of how to prescribe opioid painkillers?
A: “Family physicians now coming out of residency receive more training than those 10 years ago. Physicians currently in practice must rely on continuing education such as conferences or online courses to keep them updated on evolving topics such as opioid prescribing and abuse.”
Q: What are the options for someone with chronic pain?
A: “Options for treatment of chronic pain include physical therapy, localized injections, medications, chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage therapy and surgery.”
Q: How does a family physician judge how much pain a patient has?
A: “Judging the severity of pain is very difficult. Each patient and their level of pain tolerance is different. Physicians judge pain by its level of interference with a patient’s life (ability to work and care for their self), our exam of the patient, and tests such as X-rays and MRIs.”
Q: What are some concerns for physicians when prescribing opioids?
A: “Concerns include the possibility of the patient abusing, becoming addicted, or diverting (giving or selling the medication to someone else) the medication. Patients may use medications and substances we are unaware of, increasing their risk of interactions and overdose.”
Q: What do you think can be done in the medical community to help address the growing prescription drug abuse problem?
A: “Better education of providers, patients, as well as families and friends of patients, should be at the basis of improving awareness. Improved communication among providers (in the emergency rooms, urgent care centers, specialists and primary care offices) and pharmacists via software tools will help recognize patients that need help. Most importantly, the reputation of drug addiction as taboo needs to be removed.”