As an association, we welcome the recent attention to opioid addiction and treatment in the press. It is a public health epidemic and everyone, including the media, is looking for someone to blame. Physicians are a likely target as we are the ones that not only prescribe pain medication, but also treat addiction.

Maine’s opioid epidemic did not happen overnight. Historically, the Joint Commission, the hospital credentialing authority, deemed pain as the “fifth vital sign,” which mandated physicians to assess and prescribe treatment of pain including the use of opiates. Failure to comply was met with penalties and the increase in opiate prescribing began.

Our current heroin epidemic has only heightened the awareness of opiate addiction as some patients, whose pain medication has been abruptly stopped have turned to heroin. Worse yet, the availability of addiction treatment services is sparse.

While the passage of public law Chapter 488 goes a long way in curbing the use of opiate prescriptions, the issue remains seemingly untenable. Overdose deaths are on the rise and while the media likes to vilify those suffering from substance use disorders, they deserve nothing but our compassion, empathy and respect. Villifying and attacking our limited supply of pain specialists does not help. A recent article (12/25/16) singles out Dr. Jorgensen for compensation related to opioid medication education and training. All professionals attend, lead and teach professional education seminars and are compensated for their time.

While it is easy to blame pharmaceutical companies and doctors who prescribe opioids, this doesn’t solve the problem. A comprehensive solution of prevention, treatment, and law enforcement is needed to stem the tide of the opioid crisis in Maine.

Jack Forbush, DO

Past President, Maine Osteopathic Association

Hampden


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