Dr. Corey Waller is an emergency medicine specialist in Michigan who works to curb prescription drug addiction. He has treated thousands of patients and is board certified, and says doctors, not patients or big pharma, are to blame for the current opioid crisis.
“I think that physicians bear the brunt,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Not only did we kill people on the front end, but we are willfully and wantingly killing people on the back end. It makes me question being in medicine.”
Waller said doctors forgot their oaths to never bring harm to a patient, and abandoned what should have been the very foundation of medicine.
“Where it becomes our fault is with the responsibility that we hold as medical care providers to first do no harm,” he said. “We would rather do nothing than do harm. That’s been the mantra of medicine since Socrates and we failed at that.”
Waller believes doctors were excited about the possibility of wiping out chronic pain with the stroke of a pen, and didn’t do their due diligence on behalf of the patients.
“We did not take the time to go back and read the literature for ourselves,” Waller said. “There were plenty of ideas that sounded good but then we looked at the literature it was a no-go. We didn’t do it for opioids because it officially solved a problem for us.”
He thinks too much blame is placed on the patient, further feeding the stigma associated with addiction.
“I’ve given town halls in some of the poorest and some of the richest places around the country. No matter which one of those it is, there is a stigma. The stigma of this disease is somehow being cast as a pure failing on the part of the patient,” he said. “We [doctors] caused this problem. Addiction has been around for a long time but not at this scale. We didn’t kill this many people in their 20’s and doctors made it even worse by freaking out, and cutting everybody off.”
Waller said the culture is still slow to change, despite heightened societal awareness and increased government involvement.
“We have not stopped prescribing opioids yet. I was a part of the problem,” he said. “Once I recognized these patients were becoming systematically destroyed I actually quit emergency medicine and got board certified in addiction medicine.”
Waller opened up a clinic for recovering addicts but said when he returned to emergency medicine earlier this year, the culture still hadn’t changed.
“I went back to the emergency room to work a few months ago, and I have to tell you it hasn’t changed much in the emergency medicine department,” he said. “It’s only getting worse. I was absolutely a problem on the front end but I refuse to be a problem on the back end.”
Waller believes the country is also at risk for a second addiction crisis, driven by anti-anxiety and sleeping medications instead of opioids.
“It’s already here,” he said. “Nobody just uses opioids. I have not seen one patient of the thousands I’ve seen who only uses heroin. The most common drug they use is a benzo [Benzodiazepine], and the one right after that is marijuana.”
Waller said he refuses to leave behind a broken system for his two young children, and hopes doctors will take a look in the mirror and check their egos at the door.
“I have a five and a seven year old and I refuse to leave them with what we’ve created,” he said. “The physicians that won’t admit it and want to blame Pharma, and their patients — I would say they refuse to take a look in the mirror and are allowing ego to be their voice. And that’s unfortunate.”
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