“Since 1999, opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled and opioid prescriptions have increased markedly—almost enough for every adult in America to have a bottle of pills. Yet the amount of pain reported by Americans has not changed,” wrote Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., M.B.A. “Now, nearly 2 million people in America have a prescription opioid use disorder, contributing to increased heroin use and the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.”
The letter—which Murthy noted marks the first sent from his office to health professionals to address a public health crisis—is part of the Surgeon General’s TurnTheTide Campaign, a national effort to raise awareness about those affected by opioid use disorder, successful treatment programs, and the challenges that remain in communities hardest hit by the epidemic.
Murthy asked health care professionals to commit to addressing the growing problem of prescription opioid abuse through several actions:
- Learn how best to treat pain safely and effectively. (The letter directs professionals to a pocket guide based on CDC Opioid Prescribing Guidelines.)
- Screen patients for opioid use disorder and provide or connect them with evidence-based treatment.
- Speak openly about the fact that addiction is a chronic illness that requires treatment.
“I know solving this problem will not be easy. We often struggle to balance reducing our patients’ pain with increasing their risk of opioid addiction. But, as clinicians, we have the unique power to help end this epidemic,” Murthy wrote.
To read more and pledge your support of the Surgeon General’s campaign to end the opioid epidemic and access APA training and other resources on opioid use disorder, click here.
For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Residents Can Help to Curb the Current Opioid Epidemic” by Rachel Katz, M.D.