Opi­oid use and abuse are the prob­lem

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­times.com

‘It’s killing peo­ple left and right,” Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan pointed out a cou­ple of months ago, when he out­lined his fight against opi­oids.

And well he did: Ad­dic­tive drugs like opi­oids, ac­etaminophen and heroin do not dis­crim­i­nate, nor do they need to. Did you know: — One of the fastest­grow­ing groups of new pre­scrip­tion drug abusers are 12- to 17-year-olds and 18- to 25-year-olds, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional House­hold Sur­vey on Drug Abuse.

— Some of the street names for opi­ates are Pain Killer (what irony), School­boy, Hill­billy Heroin, Good­fella and China White.

— Com­bin­ing some com­mon an­ti­his­tamines with ac­etaminophen can lead to an over­dose and, worse, death. Nei­ther phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal re­quires a pre­scrip­tion, which means both are avail­able over-the-counter.

What of­ten hap­pens is a pa­tient takes ac­etaminophen for aches or pains or the flu, and then an­ti­his­tamine for al­ler­gies, cold symp­toms and rest­ful sleep. (Re­call how loopy Will Smith’s char­ac­ter be­came in “Hitch” after down­ing an­ti­his­tamines for an aw­ful food-al­lergy episode?)

As for colds, old-fash­ioned chicken soup has been re­placed with OTC reme­dies that we start pour­ing down kids’ throats as soon as they no longer need nip­ples.

The pop­u­lar in­ter­net site We­bMD lists scores and scores of opi­oids and other pain med­i­ca­tions. There are mul­ti­ple pills and in­jec­tions, per­haps sug­gest­ing that ei­ther pa­tients or med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als aren’t ask­ing enough ques­tions or rec­om­mend­ing enough al­ter­na­tives to opi­oids. Or both.

Opi­oids led to the deaths of Freud, Elvis and Michael. Judy, Mar­i­lyn and Janis. Belushi, Whit­ney and Prince.

As a mat­ter of re­cent fact, in­ves­tiga­tive doc­u­ments un­sealed Mon­day in the un­timely death of Prince re­vealed that bot­tles la­beled for such ev­ery­day use as Bayer and Aleve were filled with opi­ates.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors said that, in at least one case, a pre­scrip­tion opi­ate for Prince was pro­cured not in Prince’s name but in the name Kirk John­son, one of the mu­sic man’s long­time per­sonal friends and em­ploy­ees.

There’s lit­tle doubt that Prince, who for decades pranced on stage in high­heeled boots, was in phys­i­cal pain. That he seem­ingly be­came ad­dicted to the pain re­liever fen­tanyl was a killer.

We know too that the rich and the fa­mous “doc­tor shop,” and that dur­ing the course of their trav­els, they can get doc­tors to write pre­scrip­tions and hide the truth from their life-sus­tain­ing au­di­ences.

The alarms are ring­ing as loud as church bells, and the mes­sage is clear: Stem the tide on opi­oid use and abuse.

For sure, pain from surgery, an ex­tracted tooth, the bump and grind that ath­letes un­dergo, and the pains of such dis­eases as arthri­tis leave many seek­ing re­lief.

There’s also the opi­oid ad­dict, hill­billy or not, who turns to the “street phar­ma­cist” for heroin, and pill hus­tlers when a bona fide doc­tor and his scripts can’t ease the pain. And the OTC con­ve­nience at the nearby phar­macy is the “drug­store” when all else fails.

It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber as much when your child, spouse, friend, par­ents, church mem­ber, neigh­bor, team­mate or school­mate — or pa­tient — says they are in pain.

The drugs, il­le­gal or pre­scribed, may tem­po­rar­ily ease the ache or pain. How­ever, the drugs, il­le­gal and pre­scribed, are killing to the left of us and to the right of us.

That’s the cold, hard re­al­ity that must be stemmed.

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