Americans, who represent 4 percent of the world’s population, consume 80 percent of the world’s prescription opioid narcotics, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has noted in his pleas to attack the abuse of pain medicines.
Not only is the statistical imbalance stunning, but so is the breadth of the addiction.
This overuse of painkillers has grown into a major health crisis.
Four out of five heroin addictions begin with a legal prescription for pain medication, according to U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, 5th District.
The House has been looking at nearly 20 bills to address the problem. Recently, the House passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act that Brooks considers to be “huge” in the fight against opioid addiction.
Brooks authored one of the provisions that establishes a task force of providers, pain management specialists, patient advocates, people in recovery and applicable federal agencies.
The task force is responsible for reviewing, modifying and updating guidelines for prescribers of pain medication that were released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year.
The task force is to take a hard look at prescription practices. It will also have advocates for people who suffer from chronic pain and need prescription pain relievers.
But, as Zoeller has noted, more needs to be done.
He has said, “We need to better integrate addiction treatment into our health care and justice systems, increase education on mental health and addiction prevention, and continually improve prescriber guidelines.”
A task force should be judged not only for its comprehensive analysis but on whether it provides a workable guideline for prevention and treatment.
The former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Dr. David Kessler, put the national opioid epidemic addiction into perspective by calling it the result of one of the “great mistakes of modern medicine.”
The responsible parties are likely pharmaceutical giants trying to increase profits as well as physicians who overprescribe opioids as painkillers and may not have understood the addictive qualities of the drugs.
Now, all Americans are facing the epidemic. Solutions need to come quickly.
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