Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, is calling on physicians across the country to take a more active role in stemming the opioid crisis. Murthy sent a letter to U.S. physicians late last week, asking them to:
- Educate themselves on how to safely and effectively treat pain
- Screen patients for opioid use disorder and provide or connect patients with evidence-based treatment
- Discuss and treat opioid addiction as a chronic illness, not a moral failing
“We often struggle to balance reducing our patients’ pain with increasing their risk of opioid addiction,” Murthy wrote in his letter to physicians. “But, as clinicians, we have the unique power to help end this epidemic. As cynical as times may seem, the public still looks to our profession for hope during difficult moments. This is one of those times.”
Murthy’s letter is the latest component in the Turn the Tide Rx campaign. As part of the initiative, Murthy began touring the nation in April to discuss the opioid crisis and potential solutions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 249 million prescriptions were written for opioids in the U.S., there has been a 300% increase in opioid prescription sales since 1999 without an overall change in reported pain, and as many as one in four Americans receiving long-term opioid therapy in primary care settings struggle with opioid addiction.