In 2016, a total of 42,249 people died from an opioid drug overdose in the United States. And while I can’t argue that the number is outrageous, when I read it the first time it had very little significance to me. But then I got to thinking. Back in 2016, I was a CNA and worked regularly with one of the nurses. He was a quirky, middle-aged guy with an expressive face and a good sense of humor. One Monday I came into work to hear that he had passed away over the weekend. The cause? Accidental heroin overdose. And just like that, he became one of the 42,249. Now when I see that number, it’s much more than a statistic. These are real people, and the opioid epidemic is a serious problem. (1)
The Opioid Epidemic
Opioids are a classification of drugs including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription pain-relievers such as codeine, oxycodone, morphine, and many others. The opioid epidemic is only growing as time goes on. And if things continue at the speed they’re going it may soon be one of the leading causes of injury-related death in the United States. Luckily, as opioid addiction and overdose become more widespread, officials are taking serious action against it. (2, 3, 4)
The ARPO’s Strike Force Against The Opioid Epidemic
Just this past April, federal agents charged 60 defendants for illegally prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics. The scariest part is that of the 60 defendants, there were 31 doctors, 8 nurse practitioners, 7 pharmacists, and 7 other licensed medical professionals. As you might imagine, this is the largest enforcement of its kind in history. (5)
The Opioid Doctors
It’s scary to think that trusted medical professionals could get wrapped up in something as horrible as the opioid epidemic. And it begs certain questions. What were these doctors doing exactly? How did they get away with opioid distribution and prescription for so long? Here are some examples of medical professionals who were charged.
- One doctor from Kentucky was simply signing blank prescription forms. This way his staff could fill out the forms and prescribe patients controlled opioid substances.
- Another doctor was prescribing opioids to his Facebook friends and let them pick up the drugs at his house.
- A dentist was prescribing opioids even though it was completely outside his professional practice. He also had a habit of pulling teeth unnecessarily.
- One pharmacist was found giving out opioids to patients without a prescription.
- One nurse practitioner prescribed extremely dangerous combinations of opioids and other drugs in exchange for sexual favors. In just 3 years this nurse practitioner distributed over one million opioid pills and patches.