US opioid epidemic linked to economic despair

Pharmacists need to be sensitive to recognising people with addictions, a Stanford pain expert has told pharmacists

Professor of anesthesiology, perioperative, and pain medicine Elliot Krane, from Stanford University, delivered the keynote speech, “Inside America’s Opioid Epidemic: Pharmacists on the Frontlines,” at the American Pharmacists Association’s annual meeting and exposition in San Francisco.

According to the APhA’s publication, Dr Krane’s speech was “electric” and touched on several myths about opioid addiction and misuse.

“Opioid use goes up with economic despair,” Dr Krane told delegates, pointing out that addiction to opioids is inexorably linked with depression, despair and loss of self-esteem.

US states with the highest addiction rates are the same states left behind by economic growth, he said.

And he warned that strict limits on opioid prescribing, such as the CDC opioid prescribing guideline, will not work.

“It’s going to result in inhumane treatment for patients with chronic pain,” he said.

He also said that pharmacists need to be sensitive to recognising the signs of addiction in people presenting to pharmacy, and that every pharmacy needs a take-back program.

He called for increased access to naloxone and a national prescription drug monitoring program.

“Our reliance on opioids has been said to lead to the opioid ‘epidemic,’” Dr Krane said. “There’s a lot of inflammatory talk, [but] complex problems are usually not going to be solved by simple answers.

“We have people whose lives depend on opioids.”

Dr Krane had previously told that the opioid epidemic in the US has multiple causes.

“One source of the opioid crisis is that the economy has been stagnating since about 2001,” he said.

“Even though the numbers of the economic recovery look good, the recovery has not uniformly benefited a lot of our society. It has gone to the wealthy, while the working classes in places where the opioid crisis has hit hardest—in Appalachia, the Rust Belt, and rural Maine and New Hampshire, for example–have been left behind.”

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