In Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel “Catch-22,” a bomber pilot is considered insane if he continually flies combat missions without asking to be relieved from duty. And an insane pilot must be relieved from duty. But if a pilot asks to be relieved from duty, that means he’s sane, and he has to keep flying. Hence, catch-22.
Today, addiction to opioids has become another catch-22. In 2010, Florida was home to 93 of the top 100 oxycodone-dispensing doctors in the U.S., and the state averaged four deaths a day from prescription opioid overdoses. After Florida cracked down on “pill mills,” deaths from oxycodone overdoses decreased. However, when those addicted to opioid prescriptions were denied oxycodone, many turned to cheap and available heroin. Heroin-overdose deaths in Florida and across the U.S. have since skyrocketed to record numbers. So, how is our society to deal with this problem?
Some say the answer is to restrict access to opioid pain meds altogether, but these medications are essential for many people in severe pain. And it’s not legal to deny someone pain-relieving medication if it is needed. Clearly, something has to be done to help people both control pain and avoid opioid addictions!
Our suggestion: A combo of intensive patient and doctor education and medical intervention. Post-op, with cancer or any acute or chronic pain condition, opioids should be prescribed only if they come with a pain-management specialist’s written plan and ongoing supervision to both manage the pain and taper off prescribed medication as pain subsides.
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Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.