Drug overdoses from opioids have been linked to a decreased life span, according to recent findings at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The ongoing opioid crisis has been a complicated one for more than a decade.  Death rates continue to rise, despite national medical guidelines for prescribing the pain medication. 

Dr. Holly Geyer leads the opioid stewardship program at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. She says there is an important role for opioids in patient care, and the onus is on health care professionals to educate their patients and to keep up communication.
The opioid crisis has stemmed out of dysregulation of the opioids themselves and along these illicit channels that have now worked their way through our country,” says Dr. Geyer.

Dr. Geyer is an addiction medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic and author of a new book, “Ending the Crisis: Mayo Clinic’s Guide to Opioid Addiction and Safe Opioid Use.”

She says, “The reality is that, as we continue to deprescribe opioids, those struggling with the complications already had to find new sources, and they found it from the streets.”

Opioids, like pharmaceutical fentanyl and oxycodone, are typically prescribed short term and for acute pain and should be used for a limited time only.

“Chronic use of opioids leads to more problems in the majority of people than it does benefits. And that’s the point of using any drug — to have more benefits than problems,” Dr. Geyer says.

But it doesn’t mean all opioids should be avoided all the time.  “There is absolutely a role for opioids in our world,” says Dr. Geyer.

The goal, she says, is to make sure every patient who receives a prescription for opioids is provided education.

“Every patient who walks into our office should be familiar with how to use opioids safely, when they’re appropriate, how to store them, how to dispose of them, and what to look for along the course of their use,” says Dr. Geyer. 

“If that’s not happening, we’re creating statistics.”