By Jonathan Springston, Associate Managing Editor, AHC Media

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, last week addressed the opioid epidemic and asked clinicians to pledge their services as part of a new campaign to battle America’s pain pill addiction.

Murthy acknowledged the medical community “arrived at this place on a path paved with good intentions,” noting the call more than two decades ago to get serious about treating pain. However, with little proper training and safety protocols, along with an enormous marketing juggernaut pushing one pain pill after another, the surgeon general lamented the current state of affairs.

“The results have been devastating. Since 1999, opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled and opioid prescriptions have increased markedly – almost enough for every adult in America to have a bottle of pills,” Murthy wrote in a letter. “Yet the amount of pain reported by Americans has not changed. Now, nearly 2 million people in America have a prescription opioid use disorder, contributing to increased heroin use and the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.”

To get America back on the right track, Murthy proposed a three-pronged strategy: more education for clinicians about proper prescribing habits, using the CDC’s Opioid Prescribing Guideline for reference; screen patients for opioid use disorder and place them into proper treatment; and refer to opioid addiction not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness.

“Years from now, I want us to look back and know that, in the face of a crisis that threatened our nation, it was our profession that stepped up and led the way,” Murthy wrote. “I know we can succeed because healthcare is more than an occupation to us. It is a calling rooted in empathy, science, and service to humanity. These values unite us. They remain our greatest strength.”

This month, AHC Media published its latest universal premium, The Opioid Epidemic: New Policies, Treatments, and Non-Opioid Alternatives, offering the latest news, policies, and methods of controlling and reducing the opioid crisis. This special report is instrumental to physicians and nurses seeing and treating patients with chronic pain, detailing not only the latest policies and guidelines from CMS and the Department of Health and Human Services on opioid prescribing, but also exploring alternatives to opioids for chronic pain.

Also, be sure to check out the October issue of ED Management, which will be dedicated exclusively to challenges emergency physicians and nurses face when it comes to handling opioid issues in the ED.