By Nancy Swikert, MD
Opioid abuse is one of Kentucky’s most pressing and publicized health issues. In 2016, more than 1,400 Kentuckians died from opioid overdoses. That’s an average of nearly four deaths per day.
These alarming statistics have made curbing opioid abuse a statewide priority—and Kentuckians of all backgrounds and sectors are committed to finding solutions.
Physicians, who often operate on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, are focused heavily on reducing abuse and addiction. The Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care and the Kentucky Medical Association’s “Know Your Meds KY” initiative encourages physicians to counsel patients on the risks associated with opioids, the importance of adhering to prescription schedules and proper disposal of unused medicines.
At its annual meeting this August, the KMA will continue to emphasize physicians’ role in solving the crisis. Doctors from across the Commonwealth will learn about the latest prescribing statistics and trends, Kentucky’s statewide prescription drug monitoring system, updated prescribing regulations under House Bill 333 and best practices for using opioids in an inpatient setting.
State officials are working hard to stop the opioid epidemic from wreaking further havoc on our communities. Gov. Matt Bevin recently unveiled “Don’t Let Them Die,” a public awareness campaign highlighting the dangers of opioid abuse, as well as available treatment options. And earlier this month, Justice Secretary John Tilley testified before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee on Kentucky’s response to the opioid issue.
Preventing opioid abuse through safe prescribing and patient education is important, but getting Kentuckians on the path to recovery is equally beneficial. In the past, the only FDA-approved medications on the market for opioid addiction were opioid based. Now, both opioid and non-opioid based medications are available.
Physicians understand their patients’ medical histories, and recognize that what works effectively for one person may not have the same result for another. Whether it’s counseling, medication-assisted treatment or a combination of both, patients and their doctors should have a choice.
Education is a critical part of preventing and treating opioid addiction, and it can start with a simple conversation at your doctor’s office. For more information on safe opioid use, treatment options and questions to ask your provider, please visit kyma.org/know-your-meds-ky and dontletthemdie.com.
Nancy Swikert, M.D. is the 2016-17 President of the Kentucky Medical Association.