U.S. Surgeon General Takes Unprecedented Step to Fight the Country’s Opioid Epidemic

Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—August 25, 2016.  U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has sent a letter to every doctor in the United States warning them about the country’s opioid epidemic.  The letter was also sent to nurse practitioners and dentists. This is the first time that the Surgeon General has reached out to all those in the medical profession that have the ability to prescribe opioids.

While Dr. Murthy says that he understands physicians’ good intentions about wanting to help patients alleviate their pain, his letter points out that the opioid epidemic in the United States is an urgent health crisis.

From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people in the United States died from overdoses related to opioid pain medications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While some of these deaths were the result of opioids bought illegally on the streets, many did not.

In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication — enough for every adult in the United States to have a bottle of pills, according to the CDC.

Below is a copy of Dr. Murthy’s letter.

LETTER FROM THE SURGEON GENERAL

Dear Colleague,

I am asking for your help to solve an urgent health crisis facing America: the opioid epidemic. Everywhere I travel, I see communities devastated by opioid overdoses. I meet families too ashamed to seek treatment for addiction. And I will never forget my own patient whose opioid use disorder began with a course of morphine after a routine procedure.

It is important to recognize that we arrived at this place on a path paved with good intentions. Nearly two decades ago, we were encouraged to be more aggressive about treating pain, often without enough training and support to do so safely. This coincided with heavy marketing of opioids to doctors. Many of us were even taught – incorrectly – that opioids are not addictive when prescribed for legitimate pain.

The results have been devastating. Since 1999, opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled and opioid prescriptions have increased markedly – almost enough for every adult in America to have a bottle of pills. Yet the amount of pain reported by Americans has not changed. Now, nearly 2 million people in America have a prescription opioid use disorder, contributing to increased heroin use and the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

I know solving this problem will not be easy. We often struggle to balance reducing our patients’ pain with increasing their risk of opioid addiction. But, as clinicians, we have the unique power to help end this epidemic. As cynical as times may seem, the public still looks to our profession for hope during difficult moments. This is one of those times.

That is why I am asking you to pledge your commitment to turn the tide on the opioid crisis. Please take the pledge. Together, we will build a national movement of clinicians to do three things:

First, we will educate ourselves to treat pain safely and effectively. A good place to start is the TurnTheTideRx pocket guide with the CDC Opioid Prescribing Guideline. Second, we will screen our patients for opioid use disorder and provide or connect them with evidence-based treatment. Third, we can shape how the rest of the country sees addiction by talking about and treating it as a chronic illness, not a moral failing.

Years from now, I want us to look back and know that, in the face of a crisis that threatened our nation, it was our profession that stepped up and led the way. I know we can succeed because health care is more than an occupation to us. It is a calling rooted in empathy, science, and service to humanity. These values unite us. They remain our greatest strength.

Thank you for your leadership.

Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A.
19th U.S. Surgeon General

Sources: http://cdc.gov,

www.surgeongeneral.gov