PRESCRIPTION FOR ADDICTION?

August 30, 2018 at 4:30 am

Are doctors to blame for America’s growing opioid epidemic?

Aired on August 29, 2018.

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>> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO
"METROFOCUS."
I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.
ARE DOCTORS TO BLAME FOR THE
OPIOID CRISIS?
ASK THE MAJORITY OF NEW YORKERS,
AND THEY'D SAY YES ACCORDING TO
FINDINGS IN THE RECENT SURVEY
CONDUCTED BY SIENNA COLLEGE.
MANY FINGERS CAN BE POINTED AT
VARIOUS ENTITIES, WHAT IS
CERTAIN AND SAD, THAT ACCORDING
TO THIS NEW SURVEY, OVER HALF OF
ALL NEW YORKERS HAVE FELT THE
IMFACT OF THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC IN
SOME WAY.
ONE OF THE JOURNALISTS REPORTING
FROM THE FRONT LINES OF THIS
BATTLE IS TIMES UNION REPORTER
BETHANY BUMP WHO JOINS US NOW
WITH DETAILS ON PRECIPISCRIPTIO
FOR PROGRESS.
BETHANY, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.
>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.
>> WHEN IT COMES TO THE ORIGIN
OF WHOSE FAULT IS THIS OPIOID
CRISIS, WHAT HAS YOUR REPORTING
LED YOU TO UNDERSTAND?
>> ACCORDING TO THE SIENNA
COLLEGE SURVEY CONDUCTED, A
LARGE NUMBER OF NEW YORKERS
BELIEVE THAT DOCTORS REALLY ARE
THE ONES TO BLAME HERE FOR
OVERPRESCRIBING OPIOID PAIN
PILLS.
YOU KNOW, SOMEBODY GOES IN FOR A
BROKEN FOOT OR TO GET THEIR
WISDOM TEETH OUT AND THEY LEAVE
WITH A BOTTLE OF 60 HYDROCODONE.
SO THEY FEEL THAT DOCTORS, IN
PARTICULAR, HAVE BEEN SORT OF
CAVALIER.
BUT IF YOU WERE TO ACTUALLY TALK
TO PHYSICIANS AND OTHER PEOPLE
ON THE FRONT LINES OF THIS, THEY
SAY THERE'S A LOT OF FACTORS AT
PLAY HERE.
WHAT WE SAW IN LIKE THE LATE
'80s AND EARLY '90s WAS THIS
PUSH FROM GOVERNMENT, FROM
ACCREDITING AGENCIES TO SORT OF
PUSH HOSPITALS TO START
ADDRESSING PAIN AS WHAT THEY SAY
AS THE FIFTH VITAL SIGN.
SO THESE HOSPITALS WERE RATED
ACCORDING TO PATIENT
SATISFACTION.
WELL, THE BEST WAY TO MAKE A
PATIENT SATISFIED WAS TO GIVE
THEM THE MEDICATION TO DEAL WITH
THEIR PAIN.
AND SO, YOU KNOW, YOU REALLY
HEARD FROM PHYSICIANS SAYING
IT'S NOT ALL OF OUR FAULT.
AND WE ALSO SAW WHEN GOVERNMENT
STARTED TO REALIZE THAT THERE
WAS A LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE
BECOMING ADDICTED TO THESE PAIN
PILLS THEY STARTED TO CRACK DOWN
ON THE PRESCRIPTION OF THEM.
AND ONCE THEY DID THAT IT REALLY
STARTED TO FUEL THIS BLACK
MARKET.
A LOT OF PEOPLE HAD ADDICTIONS
TO THESE PILLS AND COULD NO
LONGER GET THEM AT THE DOCTOR'S
OFFICE AND SO THEY TURNED TO THE
STREETS AND WE OBVIOUSLY SAW
THAT DRUG DEALERS WERE MORE THAN
HAPPY TO MEET THAT DEMAND.
>> A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE BEEN
CRITICAL OF THE FACT THAT THE
PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY HAS SUCH
A STRONG LOBBYING FRONT THAT
IT'S MADE IT VERY DIFFICULT FOR
ANYTHING TO HAPPEN AT THE
FEDERAL LEVEL.
WHAT HAS YOUR REPORTING SHOWN
YOU OF THE ROLE THE
PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY IS
PLAYING IN THIS?
>> A LOT OF DOCTORS HAD SOME
IDEA THAT THESE DRUGS COULD BE
ADDICTIVE, BUT THEY DIDN'T KNOW
AT WHAT QUANTITY.
AND A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE SAID,
YOU KNOW, THIS IS ON THE DRUG
MANUFACTURERS.
THEY KNEW THAT THESE DRUGS HAD
ADDICTIVE QUALITIES, BUT THEY
WERE OUT TO MAKE A BUCK AND SO
THEY WERE REALLY INCENTIVIZING
DOCTORS TO OVERPRESCRIBE THEM.
AT THE END OF FEBRUARY OF THIS
YEAR, NEARLY 500 COUNTIES AND
300 CITIES AND TOWNS HAVE
ACTUALLY FILED A LAWSUIT AGAINST
THESE DRUG COMPANIES OR TALKED
ABOUT FILING A LAWSUIT AGAINST
THEM.
WE'VE SEEN THAT HERE IN NEW
YORK, THE STATE ITSELF HAS
JOINED ONTO THESE LAWSUITS, AS
HAVE NEW YORK CITY AND A BUNCH
OF COUNTIES HERE IN THE CAPITAL
REGION.
>> WHEN YOU MENTION THE BLACK
MARKET AND THAT A LOT OF THE
DRUGS WERE POPPING UP THERE WHEN
PEOPLE COULD NO LONGER GET THEM
PRESCRIBED BY THEIR DOCTORS,
WHAT'S THE SOURCE OF THE DRUGS
ON THE BLACK MARKET?
>> INITIALLY, WHAT WE HAD SEEN
AS THE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS WERE
BEING CUT OFF WAS A FLOODING OF
HEROIN ON THE MARKET.
NOW, HEROIN WAS KIND OF A DRUG
FROM DECADES PAST, BUT IT SORT
OF SPLURGED AGAIN AFTER THESE
PRESCRIPTION DRUGS WERE
INCREASINGLY BEING MONITORED AND
CUT DOWN.
WHAT IS CONCERNING PEOPLE IN THE
FIELD RIGHT NOW IS THAT WE ARE
SEEING NOT JUST HEROIN, BUT ALL
KINDS OF STREET DRUGS.
WE ARE SEEING HOMEMADE SAN EX-,
WE ARE SEEING COCAINE BEING
INCREASINGLY LACED WITH
FENTANYL, A VERY POWERFUL OPIATE
THAT'S PRESCRIBED TO CANCER
PATIENTS AT THE END OF THEIR
LIFE TO TREAT EXTREME PAIN.
IT'S 50 TIMES STRONGER THAN
HEROIN.
AND THIS FENTANYL IS FREQUENTLY
COMING FROM CHINA AND IT'S
ALREADY IN THE DRUG SUPPLY AND A
LOT OF THE DEALERS HERE DON'T
EVEN KNOW IT'S IN THE SUPPLY.
>> IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE THAT
YOU CAN TELL US ABOUT WHAT'S
BEING DONE TO TRY TO ADDRESS
SOME OF THIS?
>> ACTUALLY, HERE IN THE CAPITAL
REGION WE DO HAVE QUITE A FEW
EXAMPLES.
WE HAVE A LOCAL HOSPITAL THAT
SORT OF RECOGNIZED, LIKE, WHEN
SOMEONE GOES TO THE EMERGENCY
ROOM, AND THEY'RE IN WITHDRAWAL
FROM OPIOID MEDICATION, THEY ARE
FREQUENTLY GETTING TURNED AWAY.
AND THE REASON FOR THIS IS
BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT AT RISK OF
DYING LIKE SOMEONE WITH AN
ALCOHOL ADDICTION OR SOMEONE
WHO'S ADDICTED TO B
BENZODIAZEPINE.
THEY ACTUALLY WON'T DIE FROM
THEIR WITHDRAWAL, THEY'LL FEEL
LIKE THEY'RE GOING TO DIE BUT
THEY WON'T.
SO A LOT OF EMERGENCY ROOM DETOX
BEDS ARE PRIORITIZED FOR PEOPLE
WHO WILL DIE.
WHAT HAPPENS IN THAT MOMENT IS
THAT PERSON WHO'S TERRIFIED OF
THEIR WITHDRAWAL PAINS AND NOT
GETTING HELP AT THE HOSPITAL, AT
THE EMERGENCY ROOM, IS GOING
BACK OUT ONTO THE STREET AND
USING THEIR DRUGS BECAUSE
THEY'RE TERRIFIED OF THEIR PAIN.
SO WE HAD ONE LOCAL HOSPITAL,
ST. WEATHERS PETERS, HERE IN
ALBANY, THEY OPENED SEVERAL
WALK-IN CLINICS AT VARIOUS
LOCATIONS AROUND THE REGION.
WHAT HAPPENS IS SOMEONE IS
TURNED AWAY FROM THE EMERGENCY
ROOM, THEY WILL BE REFERRED TO
THESE CLINICS.
AND RIGHT AWAY THEY WILL GET
DOSED WITH BUPRENORPHINE, WHICH
GOES BY THE NAME SUBOXONE, AND
THAT WILL TREAT THE CRAVINGS
THAT THEY HAVE FOR THE DRUG.
IT WILL ELIMINATE THEIR
WITHDRAWAL PAIN AND THEY CAN
STAY ON THAT DRUG UNTIL THEY
MOVE UP ON A WAITING LIST FOR AN
ACTUAL DETOX OR REHAB BED.
>> WELL, BETHANY, I WANT TO
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR
REPORTING OF PRESCRIPTION FOR
PROGRESS IS I BELIEVE THE NAME
OF THE SERIES.
WE WILL DEFINITELY BE FOLLOWING
YOUR WORK AS THIS CONTINUES TO
UNFOLD IN NEW YORK, BUT ALSO, OF
COURSE, ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
>> THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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