Some Oklahoma Doctors Fail to See the Sea of Addiction
“On any given day, I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of prescription drug addiction.” A few weeks ago, I was in a meeting during which an emergency department doctor from a local hospital here in Tulsa made this startling statement. A few years ago, the state of Oklahoma was number one in the nation for the abuse of prescription drugs. Currently, Oklahoma ranks fifth in the nation for deaths by drug overdose.
Our legislature missed a major opportunity to change the tide, and help identify individuals with the disease of addiction. Earlier this year, a law that would require doctors to check the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) before prescribing potentially addictive medications to their patients failed to pass due to a group of doctors who objected. While it seems some Oklahoma doctors are failing to see the problem, many doctors have been and will continue to use PMP which has been available since 1991. PMP simply identifies whether or not the individual has other similar prescriptions from multiple doctors. Something you would think every doctor would be interested in knowing, since in the midst of addiction we not only become adept at fooling ourselves but others as well. Another aspect of this raging sea is the high level of denial involved in prescription drug addiction. Easier to deny that I have a problem when I have a bottle with my name on it prescribed by a doctor than if I’m buying pills off the street or using heroin by IV.
Deaths by heroin overdose continue to rise, according to a recent report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention the rate doubled from 2010 to 2012. This is related to prescription drug abuse. As individuals either need greater amounts of opiates or can no longer obtain pills from doctors, they turn to heroin. I’ve had the experience of someone explaining to me the “efficiency of shooting up.” It made perfect sense to her. I’ve also sat across from a man with track marks on his arms from IV drug use as he explained that he wasn’t a “junkie” because he didn’t use “street drugs.” Our capacity for denial is abundant at any stage of our addiction.
We need to work to identify those who need treatment and guide them to that treatment. The Prescription Monitoring Program seems a perfect way to do this as we all navigate the sea of addiction together.