Rethink opioids to reduce overdoses

Daily Editorial Board

In 1999, the number of Minnesotans deaths due to opioid overdose was only 60. However, by 2014, the count had increased by more than 500 percent, bringing the total number of victims to 319. 
Those are just the deaths documented officially. In fact, between 1999 and 2014, more Minnesotans died of prescription opioid overdose than of illegal heroin overdose. 
Since the 1990s, doctors have prescribed opioids to treat chronic pain. Unfortunately, there is limited scientific consensus on the efficacy of opioid drugs, which are also highly addictive. As a result, the case for clinicians to prescribe opioids is very limited. 
On the other hand, chronic pain is also incredibly debilitating, and doctors ought to do what they can to help patients manage it. 
We believe several paths are open to treat chronic pain while also decreasing the deaths associated with opioid overdose. 
First, naloxone — a drug that counteracts the effects of opioids in order to stop overdose — ought to become more accessible in Minnesota. CVS Pharmacy has already stated that pharmacists at some stores will be able to distribute naloxone without a prescription. 
Furthermore, clinicians ought to take initiative when prescribing opioids for pain management. Currently, too few medical schools provide appropriate training on the subject. 
Finally, researchers must begin focusing more on chronic pain. This will help inform overdose countermeasures and improve patients’ quality of life. Clinicians should also emphasize alternative treatments in order to bring resolve to the growing opioid crisis in Minnesota.