Dr. Mel Pohl shares how education and funding can help tackle the crisis
The United States has officially recognized the opioid epidemic as a National Public Health Emergency. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 91 Americans die every day due to an opioid overdose. Las Vegas Recovery Center’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Mel Pohl, says deaths have been increasing in the last two to three years, and medical professionals have been aware of opioid addiction problems for at least ten to fifteen years. “We created a chronic pain program at the Las Vegas Recovery Center about ten years ago because more than half of the clients were admitted because of opioid use issues,” said Dr. Pohl. Since 1999, the number of American overdose deaths involving opioids has quadrupled. From 2000 to 2015, more than 500,000 people died due to a drug overdose, and opioid overdoses accounted for the majority of those deaths. Declaring this opioid crisis a public health emergency means the issue has been placed on the government’s high-priority list, which eventually may provide needed funds to confront the problem. Dr. Pohl suggests that one of the early steps to tackle the opioid epidemic is to provide education. “We can educate the public and physicians on how to prescribe to treat chronic pain,” said Dr. Pohl. “We should also work toward helping people who have become physically dependent or addicted to the point where they are out of control and later pursue heroin and other illicit substances.” Dr. Pohl would also like to see more funding to go toward treatment of those who are addicted to opioids. “I would like to see more funding for research, which President Trump did mention in his declaration. There is a need of funding to provide patients with a variety of resources, and we need to be able to treat pain with measures other than opioids—non-medication treatments like exercise, stretching, and mindfulness,” said Dr. Pohl. Addiction can affect anyone at any age. In many cases, those who become addicted to prescription pain medication are middle-aged and older adults. One in five people who are given a ten-day opioid prescription are likely to become dependent on the drug. “We see a population of seniors in treatment for chronic pain who are on opioids,” said Dr. Pohl. “The heroin epidemic seems to trend in younger people, age twenty-five and younger, and that’s where the potential of overdose increases substantially,” says Dr. Pohl. If you are concerned about a loved one’s possible addiction, contact your nearest specialist to seek treatment. Las Vegas Recovery Center can set up a tour of the facility and personalize treatment strategies to fit each client’s needs. “The most important advice I can share is to speak up. This is a silent problem,” said Dr. Pohl. “I think the most important thing to do if you know somebody who may have a problem is to tell them and then initiate some sort of assistance.” You can also watch Dr. Pohl’s television news interview with his response toward this declaration here.