Doctors Who Are Doing Something About the Opioid Emergency

“About 10 years ago, I began to realize that the most frustrating, the most wrenching, part of my job was opioid-related issues.” Scott Weiner, emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston. IMAGE: Tony Webster, CC BY 2.0

Doctors created the deadly opioid crisis. These doctors are trying to fix it. 

Medicine’s response to America’s largest public-health crisis

By Lydialyle Gibson, Mar-Apr 2019

Harvard Magazine – “WE ARE TRYING to get the house of medicine back in order.”

That’s how one emergency-department doctor describes his efforts to rethink his work amid the still-mounting opioid epidemic.

The scale of the crisis is almost unimaginable—70,000 lives lost to overdose in 2017, of which 68 percent involved opioids; American lifespans contracting in part because of addiction; an estimated $1 trillion lost in economic output.

But the origin story is somewhat clearer: overprescribing that began in the 1990s, sparked by a combination of aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies and doctors’ well-intentioned desire to address pain, a long-overlooked complaint.

Nearly 30 years later, the problem has galloped beyond prescription pills to other opioids like heroin and fentanylPhysician Assistant Guilty In Fentanyl Kickback Scheme

As the country struggles toward countermeasures and solutions, Harvard-affiliated physicians and medical researchers turn to their own corners of the crisis—redefining addiction care, racing to find alternative drugs—working to help solve a problem that began, in part, in their own house.

When Addicts Reach the ER: A “Bridge Clinic”

MAYBE IT WAS the 2 A.M. phone calls he found himself making more and more, to tell the families of his patients that their son or daughter—age 25, age 19, age 30—had died. Or the growing number of overdoses he saw, knowing that even after he revived someone, there wasn’t much lasting help he could offer.

Or the increasingly gnawing sense that some patients were using him for prescriptions, demanding opioids for every back pain, shoulder pain, and headache—and becoming confrontational whenever he hesitated.

“About 10 years ago,” says Scott Weiner, M.P.H. ’04, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “I began to realize that the most frustrating, the most wrenching, part of my job was opioid-related issues.” Wicked Tuna Chef Airlifted To Burn Unit

For most of his career, the standard emergency-department treatment for patients in withdrawal from opioids was temporary medication to level out their symptoms—something like clonidine or benzodiazepine, which can reduce anxiety, pain, and other discomforts … Read more. 

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