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Opinion

Tue., Nov. 14, 2017

Strange theory on opioids

The Oct. 28 column of Sue Lani Madsen was a real head-scratcher for me. Her opinion that the trend to shorter hospital stays is a main cause of the plague of opioid abuse is not supported by the facts. As a local doctor of emergency medicine, I beg to differ.

The real story was the introduction of OxyContin in 1995. It was marketed by the Purdue Pharma company as the great new approach to the treatment of acute and chronic pain and “minimal risk” of addiction.

The marketing campaign for OxyContin was very effective in convincing doctors to prescribe more narcotics and the floodgates were opened.

Hundreds of millions of prescriptions for opioids, internet pharmacies, pill mills by unethical doctors, drug cartels. It amounted to $35 billion in revenue for OxyContin alone. And 2.4 million addicts now.

What is the solution? More money for prevention? Remember “Just Say No” or DARE. Bigger prisons? Please.

The best answer is more treatment slots. At least triple what is now available. Treatment works. It is cost effective. It saves money from being spent on law enforcement, etc. We have never met more than 10 percent of the need for substance abuse treatment. That is a whitewash. A feel-good effort by politicians looking for simple solutions for a complex problem.

Michael Mainer, M.D.

Spokane