Saint Alphonse doctor warns of the dangers of prescription drugs

More than 5,000 Idahoans visited an emergency department in 2021 for all drug-related overdoses. Opioid-specific overdoses represent 1,076 visits.

IDAHO, USA – Saint Alphonsus Dr. Jessica Kroll has seen emergency department patients overdose on prescription drugs through intentional and accidental abuse.

“The tricky part about prescription drugs is that they’re a prescription. So sometimes you mistakenly believe they’re safe, because a doctor prescribed them for you,” Dr. Kroll said. “They can have a disconcerting effect where you can get more drowsy which in turn can lead to these unintended overdoses, which we see quite often. That’s why there are so many recommendations and restrictions when prescribing these drugs to patients unless actually charged.”

The Idaho Department of Health and Wellness (IDHW) tracks the number of overdoses in the state. Their most comprehensive data is from 2021, when 5,058 Idahoans visited the emergency room for a drug overdose of some kind. Opioid-specific overdoses represent 1,076 visits.

“It’s something we do all the time. We give Narcan and we can reverse [opioid overdose] the patients. If it was a mild overdose, sometimes they can be sent home. Sometimes we have to admit them. Sometimes we have to tell their family members that they’re dead,” Dr. Kroll said. “I had a patient last week, a normal person with a family with a job, who came in and did an overdose of prescription drugs at home. I couldn’t get them back despite all the efforts. Yes, the illicit drugs – fentanyl – are of concern. These prescription drugs are also very important. »

Fentanyl is becoming a major concern among Idaho and county law enforcement. Of the 353 total overdose deaths in Idaho, 43% are fentanyl-related, according to IDHW. Just over 25% of these overdose deaths are due to “other opioids”.

It’s unclear what percentage of these “other opioid” deaths are specifically due to misuse — or misuse — of prescription drugs. Dr. Kroll confirms, however, that it is a reality that she sees regularly in her work.

“We’re pretty restrictive in giving them out. Really low amounts and only in certain circumstances, and some patients resent us for not giving them more painkillers,” Dr. Kroll said. “I think it’s also about reshaping our view of pain as a society. If you fall and get hurt, you’re going to be in pain for a few days, but taking a narcotic or some of these sedating drugs doesn’t It doesn’t help you get It makes you feel good and makes you feel good, but it doesn’t go to the area of ​​inflammation and improve it faster.

Some patients overdose simply by not taking their prescribed medications according to doctor’s orders.

Other states, including Nevada, restrict a doctor’s ability to prescribe an opioid unless the patient has broken a bone or died of cancer, according to Kroll. The Idaho State Board of Pharmacy has not implemented these restrictions for Gem State.

If the doctor has concerns — or if the patient and family raise concerns — an opioid prescription can also be accompanied by Narcan, according to Dr. Kroll.

Narcan is an opioid reversal agent used to treat a patient who has overdosed.

“It saves lives,” Dr. Kroll said.

Narcan is available free to eligible organizations through IDHW. For anyone interested in finding Narcan near you, IDHW offers a search function for the drug on its website.

Dr. Kroll recommends that people who are family members of — or in close contact with — an opioid user have Narcan on hand in case of an emergency.

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