State opioid prescriptions down, deaths still high

Published on Sunday, 7 April 2019 20:50
Written by SUSAN HAIGH

Associated Press

New statistics show physicians in Connecticut are continuing to prescribe fewer opioids to their patients, but the number of deaths associated with the powerful painkillers continues to remain high in the state.

Last month, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reported that 1,017 people died in 2018 from accidental overdoses, 948 of which were opioid-related. While slightly lower from the 961 opioid-related deaths in 2017, the figure is still considerably higher than the 298 in 2012.

Dr. Gregory Shangold, an emergency room physician and chairman of the Connecticut State Medical Society’s Opioid Committee, isn’t entirely surprised by the contradiction. He said a lot of the political and policy decisions surrounding the state’s opioid problem have focused “too much weight on physicians being the cause of the problem.”

He noted there are growing numbers of people who get addicted without starting on pills. Meanwhile, the vast majority of those who do begin with pills didn’t obtain them directly from a single provider, but rather bought them illegally, got them from friends or otherwise purposely misused them.

“So, us reducing prescriptions decreased that inventory out there. But it wasn’t the whole problem,” he said.

As an ER doctor with Hartford HealthCare, Shangold said he sees the need to make overdose-reversal drugs more readily available. Also, he said there are a not enough detox beds in Connecticut, especially in treatment programs with medication-assisted therapy.

When people come to an emergency room for help, Shangold said there’s a “finite amount of time” to persuade them to seek drug treatment.

Posted in The Bristol Press, on Sunday, 7 April 2019 20:50. Updated: Sunday, 7 April 2019 20:52.