The opioid epidemic has hit Oregon.
More residents die from prescription opioids than from any other drug — roughly three overdoses per week, a number that has tripled since 2000. Oregon ranks highest in non-medical use of prescription painkillers in the country.
It’s not just an inner-city issue, either. It’s a real and outsized concern in Eastern Oregon, where trips between doctors can be longer than in bigger cities and prescriptions for pain killers can be, too.
Well-intentioned efforts to ease pain, both chronic and acute, have led to much worse problems as some patients become addicted. There are biological and genetic reasons why some are more prone to addiction, according to Baker City doctor Chuck Hofmann.
And people are dying because of it. Lives are being ruined, too. Parents are losing their jobs and their children. Users are committing crimes and getting locked up behind bars. Productive members of society have become those who are now tearing it apart at the seams.
Fixing the problem is not easy. It’s time-consuming, emotionally exhausting and expensive.
But there are ways to help. Hofmann is helping organize a number of forums in our area for both the medical community and the community at large.
Consider attending one of the discussions, where you can ask questions and get reliable information about the cost of opioid addiction and alternative methods for pain relief. If you’re in the health care field, make it a priority. Getting this information out of the shadows and into the light of the public square is needed.
Local forums for medical providers are 5-9 p.m. on Friday at Good Shepherd Hospital in Hermiston, and Feb. 24 at St. Anthony in Pendleton. Topics include talking to patients about addiction, the neuroanatomy and neurochemistry of addiction, pain schools, nondrug treatment options and the role of buprenorphine in treatment.
Other forums, open to the public, will explore acute versus chronic pain, non-drug options for chronic pain and the role of psychosocial support in chronic pain management. These forums are 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Thursday in Hermiston and Feb. 23 in Pendleton.
Wrangling opioid addiction will not be easy, but we must do it head-on or it will wrangle us.