Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Report Offers Ways to Fight Crisis of Fatal Overdoses from Drugs

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Report Offers Ways to Fight Crisis of Fatal Overdoses from Drugs

Article excerpt

A report on reducing drug overdose deaths released Monday includes recommendations to train police and paramedics in how to use naloxone to save overdose victims, convene "town halls" and use social media to educate the public about the epidemic, provide better treatment for prison inmates when they're released and get doctors to stop prescribing so many opiate painkillers.

The report, prepared by an advisory group to U.S. Attorney David Hickton, represents five months of work to come up with solutions to the overdose crisis plaguing the region, the state and the nation.

Mr. Hickton, who assembled the group in the spring in response to the heroin crisis, said the problem of addiction requires a "360- degree solution" from law enforcement, doctors and hospitals, drug treatment centers, the prison system and the public.

He said his office has contributed to the effort by targeting drug dealers and rings, and choking off the supply.

"However, we cannot prosecute or incarcerate our way out of this problem," he said in the introduction of the report. "To reduce overdose deaths, we need to recognize that addiction is an illness that can be treated, and to do so we must eliminate the stigma surrounding substance abuse and seeking treatment."

The 52-page report offers no easy answers but makes many recommendations, some of which already are in place either here or in other parts of the country to one extent or another.

Among the key suggestions is to teach doctors about pain medication to reduce the chances of patients becoming addicted to painkillers.

Many doctors are getting the message, the report said, but "there are still providers whose prescribing rates fall outside of acceptable standards, and these providers need to be held accountable."

Federal prosecutors in many jurisdictions have gone after so- called "pill mills," particularly in Florida, where addicts regularly "doctor shop" for those who prescribe painkillers to addicts in exchange for cash or kickbacks.

Although the majority of doctors are diligent in wanting to reduce patients' pain, the report said many continue to prescribe too many painkillers. …

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