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opioid use, surgeon leaders can positively affect the health of
our nation by reducing the number of patients addicted to
The opioid crisis began after an earnest effort by physicians
to relieve pain and has taken years to evolve into the complex
health problem it is today. The physicians in Southern California in 2009 were understandably surprised by the prevalence
of opioid prescriptions at Kaiser Permanente. However, no
physician or surgeon should be shocked by the magnitude
of opioid prescriptions and overdoses in 2017. Opioid-related
deaths exceed liver cancer or prostate cancer deaths in the
U.S. And while Pandora’s box has been opened with regard
to opioid misuse, hope remains that the medical community can remedy the opioid epidemic through education and
Federal and state regulation may help guide physicians into
making the right choices for patients, but productive legislation requires expert recommendations. Surgeons can become
involved with these efforts through their local ACS chapters
and through collaboration with the DAHP to advocate for
constructive policies. Members of the ACS can continue to
work with legislators to support or modify bills in their home
states, while appropriately treating individual patients daily
who suffer from acute and chronic pain.
Surgeons and surgical organizations have previously led
the way in initiatives to reduce mortality and morbidity from
surgical, medical, and systems processes. To curb the opioid
epidemic, it will take strong individual and organizational
leadership, and, fortunately, many dedicated surgeons are willing to take up the mantle. With sustained advocacy research
and policy implementation, surgeons can shut the lid on the
opioid epidemic. ♦
The authors would like to thank Justin Rosen, Congressional Lobbyist, Division of Advocacy and Health Policy, Washington, DC,
for his review of the content of this article.