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Drug Addiction, Facts About Addiction, Substance Abuse  |  June 02, 2016

Given the sharp and catastrophic rise in the number of Americans addicted to opioid painkillers – one would naturally assume most physicians now know how to treat a person overdosing.  Right?

Particularly since physicians are largely responsible for the epidemic…

Well, guess again.

Many doctors have little or no training  in the use of one of the most effective and life-saving drugs for patients experiencing an overdose.   That drug is called naloxone.  And so few are trained in the use of buprenorphine (common name – Suboxone), a drug that effectively eases a person’s cravings for opioids and is an effective treatment for opioid addiction, that President Obama proposed taking regulatory action to increase the number of patients each physician trained in its use can actually treat.

Ok.  Well since this opioid painkiller addiction problem has only arisen in the last 20 years, surely new physicians are being trained to use these life savings tools – right?

Sadly – no.

Things are so bad that Harvard medical school students, distraught by the carnage being caused by opioids, recently took matters into their own hands to organize a class to learn how to use these life-saving drugs.

That’s right.  They had to organize the class themselves.  And they are the first medical students in America to even receive this optional training.

The question one has to ask is “how is this possible?”  How did we fail to teach physicians about the risks associated with this highly addictive class of drugs in the first place?  And how have we now failed to train them to administer life-saving drug therapies that have been available for more than a decade?

The epidemic of opioid painkiller abuse is a crisis that began in the late 1990s.  And the problem is now so bad that the death rate from painkiller drug overdoses in the U.S. is estimated to be more than 20,000 per year.

How is it possible that an entire medical system failed to respond effectively to a crisis of this magnitude?

That is a question that demands answers…

Photo credit: Maclauren 70 via Fotor.com CC BY-NC-SA