5 steps for physicians to help reverse opioid epidemic

The country's opioid epidemic has started far too often from a prescription pad and physicians must play a lead role in reversing the crisis, says Steven J. Stack, M.D., president of the American Medical Association, in an open letter to doctors.

With nearly 2 million Americans now suffering from opioid use disorder, Stack wrote the letter, which appeared in the Huffington Post Blog, calling on the country's physicians to immediately take the following steps:

  • Stop writing opioid prescriptions for new patients with chronic non-cancer pain unless the expected benefits will outweigh the risks. Instead use non-pharmacologic alternatives or non-opioid medications.
  • Limit the amount of opioid painkillers prescribed for post-operative care and patients with acute injuries. Prescribe the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.
  • Register for and use state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs.
  • Help patients with opioid use disorder to obtain treatment.
  • Prescribe naloxone to patients who are risk for an overdose.

One step Stack did not endorse is mandatory training for physicians who prescribe opioids. Given the opioid problem, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering a proposal to mandate safety training courses for doctors, but  physician groups, including the AMA, continue to voice opposition to such a move, as FiercePraticeManagement previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the letter