SOURCE: CMW Media

May 17, 2016 09:00 ET

American Pain Association (APA) Launches Opioid Addiction Awareness Campaign, Petitions U.S. Surgeon General to Add to Nation's "Call to Action"

BALA CYNWYD, PA--(Marketwired - May 17, 2016) -  Notable opioid overdose deaths include: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Corey Haim, and now, quite possibly once toxicology reports are released, Prince. Each day, 78 people in the U.S. die from opioid overdose. In a recent CBS News report, Doctor David Kessler, former head of the U.S. FDA states, "This has been one of the great mistakes of modern medicine." Kessler went on to say opioid addiction in the U.S. amounts to an epidemic. An estimated 2.1 million Americans are addicted to opioid painkillers and another half million are addicted to heroin.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that in 2014, more than 47,000 people died of a drug overdose, killing more people then guns and traffic accidents; the majority of those deaths were a result of opioids. In spite of an increase of billions of dollars to fight this epidemic, opioid deaths in 2014 increased 14 percent over 2013; this marks the biggest surge in deaths since the current opioid epidemic began in the early 2000s.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, President of The American Pain Association (APA), states, "What the nation desperately needs is improvement in the science of pain and addiction treatment and protocols based on data. Apparently, no pain specialist was included in the CDC's Guideline development core committee."

Gupta and the APA have spearheaded a national opioid awareness initiative focused on educating the public on the dangers of opioids and prescription opioid addiction. The APA is requesting that the U.S. Surgeon General add the U.S.' opioid epidemic to the nation's "Call to Action." The APA has created a petition to gain online signatures from the public to aid in their request.

"With more than 300,000 deaths over the last eight years, substance abuse has been killing more people than any war," states Dr. Gupta. "In spite of spending billions of dollars and significant multiple agency administration efforts over the last decade, the number of deaths continue to escalate. Administration failure in curbing this epidemic calls for revisiting the strategies and redefining the course. Although statistics show this is the #1 public crisis over several years, the Surgeon General still has not included it as his `Call to Action' item. Last year, his Call to Action was `Walking for Fitness'. If the U.S. Surgeon General makes addiction a visible top priority by including it as a `Call to Action' item this year, that will help in generating awareness and place emphasis for creating a viable, data-based solution to this epidemic."

In addition, the APA recommends a plan of action that includes:

1.) Increase Public Awareness of the Opioid Epidemic:

Although mortality with Ebola or the Zika virus in America was minimal, the general public is more aware of these as public health problems than the growing opioid epidemic. Opioid abuse, overdoes and death must be included on the Surgeon General's "Call to Action" list to enlist Federal funding and personnel to contain the epidemic and deploy viable solutions to help the millions that are fighting opioid addiction each day. In agreement are Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Rep. Donald Norcross who support making the opioid epidemic a U.S. Surgeon General's "Call to Action". The APA requests the public's support by signing their online petition.

2.) Create a Central Command Center with Inter-Agency Task Force

It is the opinion of the APA that although multiple Federal agencies (ex. CDC, FDA) are working on this issue, their efforts can be better coordinated. By creating a central command center with an inter-agency task force, the U.S. government could monitor real-time data and issue realistic guidelines and action-items. The APA recommends that such task force includes representation from patients, medical associations and health insurance industry as the majority of the 250 million opioid prescriptions were paid for by health insurance and tax payers resulting in billions of dollars in expense.

3.) Deploy Realistic Next-Steps

While several Federal Government agencies are issuing guidelines, it is the opinion of the APA that when a governmental agency develops guidelines the effects and outcome may be unpredictable and may be exaggerated because of the fear. Simply ceasing to prescribe opioids is not a viable solution, nor is it recommended. Gathering and deciphering real-time data is necessary to fully understand the effects of opioid addiction, withdrawal and develop a humane plan of action to address the addiction.

Gupta continues, "Take, for example, Tennesse Pain Clinics where there are thousands of patients who were on long-term pain treatments with opioids that, based on CDC guidelines, would stop with 30-days notice. Immediate withdrawals from opioid addition could very well lead to people accessing `street drugs' as a replacement. It was recently reported that several people in California sought medical help after ingesting counterfeit pain medication laced with fentanyl."

Pain Management is a relatively new field and more development is needed in the science of pain treatment. People sometimes turn to opioids for the lack of effective alternatives for pain control. More opioid alternatives need to be further developed and explored including medical marijuana and other novel compounds.

Gupta concludes, "There are many resources that can assist those battling opioid addiction and chronic pain. However, The APA stresses that data should lead the conversation on creating viable solutions to the nation's opioid abuse epidemic. We thank those who have participated in the online petition and encourage the public to also do the same. Together, we can create positive change for those who are facing opioid addiction and chronic pain."

About the American Pain Association:
The primary efforts of American Pain Association are directed towards education, research and improving treatment. We are also working in the area of developing expert consensus statements regarding pain issues. If you wish to participate in our activities or gather more information, please feel free to contact us at info@painassociation.org. Membership is open to all people from all walks of life, who are interested in Pain Management. For more information, visit www.painassociation.org

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