The opioid epidemic currently wreaking havoc in the U.S. is a product of “hubris” within the medical community, according to a leading physician in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Paul Offit is a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Offit says blame for rampant prescription opioid and heroin addiction in the country should be placed squarely on the misguided efforts of the medical community and their focus on eliminating pain, reports Philly.com.
He points to a long history of health care professionals pushing “breakthrough” pain treatments that ended up creating a population of addicts. Opium was the original substance widely used for pain relief until addiction became too widespread. Opium lead to morphine, which eventual lead to the creation of oxycodone. At one time doctors even thought heroin was a viable treatment for pain.
“You can blame the current opioid epidemic, one that kills tens of thousands of people a year in the U.S., on medical hubris,” Offit told Philly.com in an interview. “If you had to lay the blame of this epidemic on anyone, it would be at the feet of doctors and scientists who have believed, wrongly, for 2,500 years that they can separate pain relief from addiction. When we believed that no one should suffer a moment of pain, and became very quick to prescribe opioids, we created the opioid epidemic.”
Fatal overdoses from heroin quadrupled over the last five years nationally, according to data released by the National Center for Health Statistics Feb. 24. They say the massive increase in heroin and general opioid abuse in the U.S. since 2010 is driven by lower drug prices and ingredients with higher potency, like fentanyl.
Authors of the study noted in 2010 only 8 percent of all fatal drug overdoses stemmed from heroin. In 2015, roughly 25 percent of fatal drug overdoses were caused by heroin. Opioid deaths contributed to the first drop in U.S. life expectancy since 1993 and eclipsed deaths from motor vehicle accidents in 2015, claiming more than 33,000 lives.
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