Opioids are incredibly strong pain relievers. Doctors often prescribe them for patients who are in need of relief from a painful condition. The issue with opioids is that they are highly addictive. Another issue with opiods is they are very easy to obtain.

You probably know these medications under the names of Hydrocodone, Oxycontin, Percocet, Vicodin and those are just the medical names. When used under a doctor's supervision these medications can be a Godsend. When they are abused they can become a devilish addiction. There is currently an epidemic of opioid use in Louisiana.

Medical Director with the state Office of Public Health, Dr. David Holcombe in his comments to the Louisiana Radio Network about this issue suggested that the problem isn't limited to Louisiana. It's an epidemic that is all over the Deep South. One of the reasons why it's such an epidemic is the ease at which patients can get these medicines.

If it takes 20 minutes to tell a patient why they don’t need an opioid and two minutes to write a prescription, you can do the math.

The opioid prescription rate across Louisiana was one of the highest in the nations. The states of Tennessee, West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Kentucky also had high per capita rates of opioid prescriptions. In fact the rate of opioid prescriptions in Louisiana is 1.03 as of 2015. That means there are more prescriptions for opioids than their are people in the state. 

If these prescriptions are used under a doctor's care what's the problem? It's not the pain management on the medical side, but that is where it starts.

This whole idea that for some reason pain had to be completely eliminated, that it was the fifth vital sign and that no pain would be tolerated.

Once a patient becomes dependent on the drugs and can no longer get them via a prescription there is a tendency to turn to illegal drugs such as heroin. One of the reasons that heroin becomes a drug of choice is its availability and relatively low price.

Doctors across the state are being urged to cross check their patients to see if they are seeking pain medication from multiple sources. The practice known as "doctor shopping" is against the law and can usually lead to deeper addiction.



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