Chekrallah: Doctor, Patient Communication Essential to Fighting Opioid Addiction

Thursday, June 09, 2016

 

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As someone who works every day with people struggling with addiction to opioid-based painkillers and their illegal street cousin, heroin, I know how first hand the devastating cost of this epidemic to individuals and their families. It is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States and Rhode Island, taking nearly 30,000 lives annually.

 We know that over-prescribing is the main cause of today’s opiate epidemic. In 2014, more than 200 million prescriptions for opiate-based painkillers, such as Oxycodone and Vicadin, were written. Four-out-of-five heroin addicts begin with prescription pain-killers. The bottom line is we're not seeing consistent, effective, appropriate prescribing of painkillers across the nation, said Tom Frieden  M.D.,. Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “and this is a problem because of the deaths that result.” 

Research shows that there are now safer non-addictive alternatives to opioid-based prescription painkillers that can be used in most cases.  One of the keys to moving to these safer alternatives and ensuring that when opiates do need to be prescribed, the patient understands the risks of addiction is more communication between Doctors and patients

That is why we at the Journey are pleased to sponsor the  launch of a statewide Choosing Wisely Program to educate patients on the questions they should be asking their Doctor when treatment for pain is needed.  Local partners in this effort include Rhode Island Business Group on Health (RIBGH) and RI Medical Society. Central to the program is the promotion and distribution of free wallet cards with the “5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before You Get Any Test, Treatment or Procedure."  This will be supplemented by distribution of user friendly information providing guidance about "When People Need an opioid and When They Don't."

Choosing Wisely State

At the Rhode Island launch, which is being held this Friday, from  8:00 AM t010:30 AM Brown University’s Salomon Center,  Governor Raimondo will unveil a proclamation making the State of Rhode Island a “Choosing Wisely State.”--one of the first states to do so. Choosing Wisely is  a national effort to promote more communication between patients and Doctors led by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation (ABIMF) and Consumer Reports.  

The Choosing Wisely initiative fits well with  Governor Raimondo's proactive action plan for addressing the opiate epidemic. The action plan contains detailed policy reforms to prevent addiction, support treatment and promote recovery:

We urge any one who can to attend the launch to do so, the event is free and open to the public. We need all hands on deck to mount the comprehensive effort required to prevent opiate addiction – and that begins with all of us taking responsibility as patients and parents to get up to speed and learn about the risks of addiction, safer alternatives, and what questions are vital to ask prescribers so we can make informed medical decisions. 

Diana Chekrallah is Executive Director of The Journey to Hope, Health, Healing, which provides medication-assisted therapy at clinics in Johnston, Providence and Westerly For more information, visit  www.TheJourneyHHH.com.

 

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