I remember just moving to Atlanta and having breakfast with a new-found friend I had met while working at a hospital as a registered nurse. The food at our chosen eatery was far from great. But I must say, my friend’s enthusiasm for life, specifically living in Atlanta, was fulfilling enough to make me forget the chef's lackluster culinary skills. She was warm, outgoing, adventurous, somewhat inquisitive — just what ...

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Trump recently declared a national public health emergency. In this statement he was not talking about HIV or hepatitis C nor was he referring to the increased incidence of gun violence in the country. The president’s statements focused on a very different public health problem; he was talking about America’s high incidence of opioid-related deaths mostly from overdose. This declaration has been met with various pronouncements ...

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Mrs. Smith is an 81-year-old female. She worked a long time doing very physical work and is now on a fixed income and comes to my office with chronic pain. X-rays show she has degenerative arthritis in her hips, knees and lumbar spine. She has taken Norco twice a day for years and has been able to be very stable on this. She has always been compliant with her medications. ...

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There's a common affliction that's rampant in my practice, but it's not a gastrointestinal condition. It's called polypharmacy, and it refers to patients who are receiving a pile of prescription and other medications. I see this daily in the office and in the hospital. It's common enough to see patients who are receiving 10 or more medications, usually from 3 or 4 medical specialists. Of course, every doctor feels that he ...

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Jim Johnson is the director of the West Virginia Office of Drug Control Policy, and an advocate on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. During his previous job as the police chief from Huntington, WV he spearheaded a comprehensive initiative of education, syringe exchanges, and Naloxone distribution that has shown promising results in a community where up to 10 percent of the population is plagued with opioid dependence. His ...

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When I found out my patient was in the hospital again for the third time in six months, I wondered why her asthma had flared. Was the cold weather bothering her? Was her treatment regimen inadequate? When I spoke with her, I discovered the heartbreaking truth: she had been limiting her albuterol inhaler use because she simply could not afford to take it as much as she needed. For many of ...

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No, I’m not talking about putting fentanyl into my own veins — a remarkably bad idea. I’m questioning the habitual, reflex use of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, in clinical anesthesiology practice. I’ve been teaching clinical anesthesiology, supervising residents and medical students, in the operating rooms of academic hospitals for the past 18 years. Anesthesiology residents often ask if I “like” fentanyl, wanting to know if we’ll plan to use it in ...

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STAT_Logo One of Max’s friends taught him an easy way to buy shady drugs. What he learned almost killed him, and it opened my eyes to a hiding-in-plain-sight source of dangerous drugs that is amplifying the opioid epidemic. When Max (not his real name) developed pancreatitis a decade ago, his physicians prescribed opioids to ease his extreme ...

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How can we combat the opioid epidemic? One of the government’s most recent suggestions is to take Opana ER, an opioid indicated for very severe pain, off the market. The request, filed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June, was linked to concerns of abuse-related HIV and hepatitis C outbreaks. But removing access to opioids altogether isn’t the solution. There are individuals suffering from ...

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In order to fully understand the issues surrounding opioid prescribing practices, it is important to review a brief history of how these drugs came to market. Opium was the first opioid, derived from the sap of opium poppies whose growth and cultivation dates back to 3,400 BC. In the 18th century, physicians in the U.S. used opium for multiple ailments. Towards the end of the 18th century, the addictive qualities of ...

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