PNS Daily Newscast - September 24 

Update: A second accuser emerges with misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Also on the Monday rundown: We take you to a state where more than 60,000 kids are chronically absent from school; and we'll let you know why the rural digital divide can be a twofold problem.

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Opioid-Addiction Treatment: To Prescribe or Not to Prescribe

Dozens of Americans die every day by overdosing on painkillers. (
Dozens of Americans die every day by overdosing on painkillers. (
August 7, 2017

BALTIMORE -- Overdoses on painkillers kill more than sixty Americans every day, and between 2005 and 2014 there was a 99 percent increase in the number of people going to emergency rooms because of overdoses.

But according to the American Psychological Association, doctors have been reluctant to prescribe treatment designed to prevent addiction. At Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Andrew Huhn said Buprenorphine, more commonly known as Suboxone, was approved for the treatment of opioid use disorder back in 2002. But research by the APA found many doctors are not willing to increase their use of it.

"It reduces the risk of relapse to illicit opioids, and it also has been shown to reduce the incidence of overdose death,” Huhn said. "It can be a treatment that's used short term; it can be a treatment that's used long term. "

Methadone is the other drug prescribed for opioid addiction, but many in the regulatory and law enforcement communities are concerned that both it and Suboxone are being abused at high rates. Because of the potential for abuse, a provider must get a waiver to prescribe either from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

According to APA research, doctors are concerned about the number of patients requesting treatment for painkiller abuse, and many don't have the time to take on new patients. Huhn said it's a crisis that keeps getting worse every year, and he said it's destroying lives.

"Addiction or opioid use disorder is a chronic disease, so just like diabetes or asthma, it's not going to go away,” he said. "If you have a severe opioid use disorder, it needs to be treated like a chronic disease. "

Government data published earlier this year estimated that 1.27 million people were hospitalized or sought help at an emergency room for opioid-related issues in 2014.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD