— Now They Need To Fund It
Opioids are in the news. We’re told regularly that we’re in the middle of an “opioid epidemic,” which resulted in more than 28,000 deaths in 2014 — more than 18,000 of them from prescription opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and others.
The problem of opioid dependence, abuse and addiction has created a public health crisis, and this crisis is at least partly of our own making. As a society, we have (rightly) endorsed the use of opioid pain management, which can be life-saving for those with terrible acute and chronic pain. But our skill in managing the complete life-cycle of opioid use — including helping patients to wean off the drugs — has not kept up with our physicians’ prescribing practice.
So now opioid treatment is in the news. Congress has just passed a historic bipartisan bill that reframes opioid addiction as a health problem, provides increased avenues for treatment, and strengthens prescription drug-monitoring programs.
The bill, however, did not include complete funding for the proposals, which Republicans insisted be voted on separately after the summer recess. This is hardly a surprise; bills like this always raise the question: where should we spend our precious public dollars? Even if you can convince everyone that public health is a good place to expend resources, the issue of opioid abuse has a certain stigma attached to it, raising — to some minds — the question of whether the best use of our money is trying to save the lives of drug addicts.