Discharged from hospital with fatal dose of opiates. Who is accountable?

Heartbreaking news of another young person in recovery dying today by accidental overdose to prescribed medication. How is this possible? Who is accountable? What can we do to stop this?

“The fact that a discharging doctor could so easily send a patient out of the hospital with a potentially fatal dose of opiates is a reflection of how the rhetoric around treating drug addiction as a public health issue hasn’t gotten much beyond words” says reporter Jason Cherkis in his article.

“If you’re allergic to penicillin, that goes on your record, and if a doctor comes in later and tries to write a prescription for penicillin, it’s blocked, you can’t do it,” said David Grubb. “And the same is true with drugs that interact with one another improperly. Anytime you do that, it’s part of the medical records and they’re all electronic.” Why is this not the case when treating those who have struggled with drug addiction?

We need laws and strict guidelines about prescribing specific medications to known (self-declared or medically diagnosed) patients who have struggled with drug use disorders.

Even those who are in long-term recovery, when they are prescribed pain medications – can find it challenging to be open with doctors and family members due to the stifling prevalence of a shame-based, punitive, short-term approach to treating addiction. We must end stigma as a barrier to health care.

A key part of the “solution” to this epidemic should include access to more shared information and open education: doctors need training, tools and accountability; patients and their families can benefit from clear guidance early in their recovery about actions they can, and should, take vis a vis prescription medications.

We can do all of this. It is time to end stigma, provide more education, offer strict medical guidelines, and support access to on-going recovery resources so that drug addiction is treated as the public health crisis that it is and so we can save the lives of our youth who are needlessly dying.