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No Easy Answer to Opioid Addiction Epidemic: Experts


There are no easy answers to solving the opioid addiction epidemic, according to experts at the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence annual meeting this week. Thomas McLellan, CEO of the Treatment Research Institute, told NBC Philadelphia a multi-faceted approach is needed.

“You don’t have any alternatives [to opioids]. The only alternative is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory; well it’s got liver toxicity and it’s not all that potent. There’s nothing between that and a very powerful opioid,” said Dr. McLellan, who served as the Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “This is one of those problems that society has to manage. You can’t do away with it. Not with 70 million older Americans who vote and are aging and need them. You can’t ban them.”

Doctors don’t have proper training to understand opioid addiction, Dr. McLellan noted. “They prescribe too much. They don’t manage them. About 70 percent of all the overdose deaths occur within 48 hours after the first prescription or after the first refill,” he said.

He and Dr. Jeannemarie Perrone, Director of Toxicology in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s Emergency Medicine Department, recommend that doctors follow national guidelines from the American Academy of Pain Management. These guidelines recommend that patients sign a usage contract, and submit to an annual toxicology screening test to confirm they are taking the medicine and not taking other drugs before the doctor issues a prescription.

Patients also need to be part of the solution to opioid abuse, Dr. McLellan says. “It has to be the joint responsibility of the patients to take medication as prescribed. Don’t give them to your sister, don’t leave them in your medicine cabinet, don’t take more than you need,” he added.

7 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Nancy Turner
    Nancy Turner / February 26, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    People are being arrested, jailed, profiled, and harassed in opioid replacement programs. They find it easier to shoot heroin “behind the public eye” then to enter treatment. Shame on a culture that declared war on a disease. The War on Drugs is the biggest failure in my memory of the last 46 years. Can you imagine if we declared war on diabetes by locking up the obese that continue to use insulin. Stop this madness.

  2. Carlos / November 20, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    All very rational but until clinicians get off the 12 steps and start being honest with themselves and start reading research and truly learn the science they should have learn the patients are screwed

  3. Billy RPh / November 13, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Dr. McLellan seems to be a voice of reason amid the roar of those who want to ban and unreasonably restrict this group of medications. With all the drama generated with this “epidemic”, those who truly need these meds just to function are being “punished” and looked at as criminals just because they have a painful condition they did not ask for.

  4. docbarry / November 13, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Oioid use/addiction, is like no other. People that use lipids, on some level, yh shook is almost as pathetic as Coor’S Beach VollyBall Days. It is not the waiting line of an opium den, or anything else your friends and parents warned you about. It is so far from your reality, it might as well be watching Reefer Madness in Drug Prevevtion class.
    You can probably start opiates somewhat socially, snorting (IN) the drug. For some that is where it will end, for your best friend, it may just be the beginning of the end of how that person knows life.
    Do you want to roll those dice? They are somewhat loaded, those dice make you love them…

  5. joebanana / November 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    What’s the difference between a drug cartel, and a drug company? What’s the difference between a drug pusher and a doctor? If it’s “bad” to give drugs to kids, why do doctors?

  6. Ed Olsen / November 13, 2013 at 11:51 am

    There are some easy answers! In NY we have I-STOP where doctors and addiction professionals can check online for people who are doctor shopping. ALSO! maybe the FDA could stop being so concerned about trans fats and not approve drugs like Zohydro we could make some progress!!!

  7. Avatar of Kelli Brown
    Kelli Brown / November 13, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Maybe physicians should be required to have some type of opioid addiction education each year, and hear real stories of abuse.

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