Are You Pledging to Fight the Opioid Epidemic?

Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A. (United States Surgeon General) sent a letter to US physicians about the impact that the opioid epidemic has had on communities and asks for their help:

I am asking for your help to solve an urgent health crisis facing America: the opioid epidemic. Everywhere I travel, I see communities devastated by opioid overdoses. I meet families too ashamed to seek treatment for addiction. And I will never forget my own patient whose opioid use disorder began with a course of morphine after a routine procedure.

It is important to recognize that we arrived at this place on a path paved with good intentions. Nearly two decades ago, we were encouraged to be more aggressive about treating pain, often without enough training and support to do so safely. This coincided with heavy marketing of opioids to doctors. Many of us were even taught – incorrectly – that opioids are not addictive when prescribed for legitimate pain.

To help fight the opioid epidemic, the Surgeon General asks physicians to sign a pledge to educate themselves about treating pain, to better screen patients, and talk about and treat addiction “as a chronic illness, not a moral failing”:

That is why I am asking you to pledge your commitment to turn the tide on the opioid crisis. Please take the pledge at Together, we will build a national movement of clinicians to do three things.

First, we will educate ourselves to treat pain safely and effectively. A good place to start is the enclosed pocket card with the CDC Opioid Prescribing Guideline. Second, we will screen our patients for opioid use disorder and provide or connect them with evidence-based treatment. Third, we can shape how the rest of the country sees addiction by talking about and treating it as a chronic illness, not a moral failing.

Medical Economics gathered some reactions by physicians to the Surgeon General letter.

Do you agree?

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