National News - Joan Marie Walsh

Big Pharma

          It’s no secret that the addiction to pain medications, opioids, have become a public health emergency across the nation. A drug that is used to treat moderate to severe pain has created an unprecedented epidemic in the United States. 

          Research shows that every day more than 130 people in the U.S. die after overdosing on opioids such as prescription pain relievers and heroin. 

In an interview with Upper School Health and Human Sexuality teacher Mrs. Mazur, she shared her thoughts and worries about opioids. She brought up how this topic is not talked about enough even though it’s an active crisis. 

          She stated, “the scary part is that people are switching to heroin because it’s the same type of high and heroin is easier to get than prescription drugs.” 

The sad reality is that this epidemic is a slippery slope. It begins with empty prescription bottles and people going back for constant, easy refills that are unnecessary. Mrs. Mazur said, “many people will injure themselves purposefully to get those refills, and when they can’t get their refills anymore because they’ve exhausted their resources, that’s when they go to heroin.”

          Father of junior, Hadley Boston, Dan Boston, works with physicians and institutional providers like hospitals, hospices and nursing homes to help them with their federal legislative and regulatory issues. Within his work, he deals with a lot of his clients problems on the opioid front. When I asked him how the opioid epidemic has affected his career and those of his clients’, he responded with, “I think what the government learned over the last ten years is that just because there is a breakthrough in treatments and moving toward non-opiate therapies, it takes at least 14 to 16 years for that treatment to make it way into what you and I would call common use.” 

          As I have consistently used the word “crisis” to describe the epidemic, Mr. Boston informed me that calling it a “crisis” is actually controversial. He said, “we actually lose more to many other things, like cancer, drunk driving or alcohol abuse.” 

          On the other hand, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that, “In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses, making it a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Sixty-eight percent of those deaths involved a prescription or illicit opioid.” 

          It’s easy to dismiss the reality of this epidemic, thinking it probably won’t affect our community, but it easily could. The number of athletes playing sports game after sports game makes injuries unavoidable. These injuries lead to surgeries and then to prescription drugs. The misuse of prescription drugs is linked to heroin use later in life. 

          This crisis is happening right in our backyard. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “In 2017, there were 1,241 drug overdose deaths involving opioids in Virginia—a rate of 14.8 deaths per 100,000 persons, compared to the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons.”

          In reality, trusting your doctor is inevitable. So if you go to the doctor for an injury and you are prescribed a painkiller than most likely you will just take it without questions asked.

          However, Mrs. Mazur emphasized certain questions that patients should ask their doctor in the case of a serious injury. If you are prescribed a prescription, she encourages to ask these questions: “Am I at risk for addiction? Will something else work for the pain? Do you have to give me this prescription? How long will I be taking them? Are you prescribing the lowest possible dosage? What is the plan to taper me off?” Having these conversations with your doctor is important and is much safer. It’s important to be aware of this epidemic and what we can do to improve this problem.