U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has penned a letter to 2.3 million healthcare providers urging them to help fight the opioid epidemic.
Calling opioid abuse one of the highest priorities of the Obama administration, Murthy writes, “We often struggle to balance reducing our patients' pain with increasing their risk of opioid addiction. But, as clinicians, we have the unique power to help end this epidemic. As cynical as times may seem, the public still looks to our profession for hope during difficult moments. This is one of those times.”
Murthy, an internal medicine physician, then asks physicians to visit his site, TurntheTideRx.org, and take a pledge. The pledge entrusts physicians to educate themselves to treat pain safely and effective, screen patients for opioid abuse and provide them with treatment, and to talk about and treat addiction “as a chronic illness, not a moral failing.”
Murthy launched the site this month shortly after calling opioid abuse “a chronic illness of the brain, one that requires the same compassion, skill and urgency in treatment that diabetes or heart disease or cancer require.”
The letter also includes a pocket card with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Opioid Prescribing guidelines.
The nation's doctor has made the opioid epidemic a central focus of his tenure, publicly discussing and advocating for reformed treatment and outlook.
Prescription painkillers and heroin were responsible for 60% of the more than 47,000 overdose-related deaths in 2014.
Murthy was recently named 73rd on Modern Healthcare's list of the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare.