On Apr. 17, the Department of Justice announced the arrest of dozens of healthcare professionals in connection to the opioid epidemic. 60 medical professionals in six states were charged in connection to over-prescription and healthcare fraud.

Providers at every level have a responsibility to the community and their patients to give the best and safest care possible which is why safe prescription methods and addiction programs are so important. The new legislation also needs to be passed to help those already affected by addiction because you cannot always force people to do the right thing.

The Center for Disease Control says that deaths related to opioid abuse has increased by five times and more than 200,000 people have died due to prescription opioids since 1999. This number is staggering and something more needs to be done, not just in Tennessee, but also throughout the U.S. because the effects of opioid use are seen all over.

A sad and disappointing part about the bust is the knowledge that one pain clinic encouraged and pressured patients to receive unnecessary shots in order to increase their income. Three nurse practitioners were arrested in relation to this issue.

It is disgusting how some providers have violated the oaths they took to cause no harm in order to make more money without consideration to the lives affected and even ruined by addiction.

Health care professionals have a responsibility to their patients to provide the best care possible. The efforts to limit opioid abuse should not mean that people who are in pain suffer though. If someone is in pain, they should be able to go to the doctor to find out ways to treat the cause as well as manage the symptoms. Opioids are not always the answer to treating pain and other options should be explored first.

The CDC recommends that providers only give the lowest possible dosage needed to treat pain.

The overuse of opioids has become an increasingly desperate and complex issue of focus for the American government, especially in Tennessee.

Appalachia has been hit harder than most regions in the country with opioid abuse and the General Assembly has made efforts to curb this.

Providers have been required since 2013 to report all controlled substances ordered which include the type of medication, dosage, and estimated days of supply. Providers are also supposed to check the database before prescribing any controlled substances to patients.

The practice of going to multiple doctors for different prescriptions can be limited if this program is used and providers check the database before writing a prescription order. Doctor shopping is a big issue because there is often poor communication between doctors offices. The reporting of all pain medications ordered is a logical answer to limit doctor shopping.

Though these requirements are somewhat effective, the General Assembly has still fallen short by ignoring evidence that shows the legalization of cannabis has led to a decrease in opioid abuse in every state that it has been legalized in.

The treatment of opioid addiction with cannabis is used to pace the stop of opioids so that the person does not face withdraw without any pain control. According to Addiction Centers, there is limited formal research, but “the conclusions suggest that it can help decrease opioid overdose and death.”

Cannabis can be used to treat pain as well as the symptoms of withdrawal so people can avoid the use of harder pain medications altogether. Cannabis poses no risk of addiction or withdrawal either. W. David Bradford, a professor at the University of Georgian, says that states with relaxed laws surrounding cannabis show a “substantial reductions in opiate use.”

If the goal is to help people and decrease the overall prevalence of the opioid epidemic, then more needs to be done that may be out of the box. If cannabis is shown to decrease the number of people using and addicted to opioids, then people should have access to it. If the goal is really to stop the opioid epidemic and nothing else has worked so far, why not?

Providers should protect their patients and explore other options before prescribing high doses of opioids. Legislatures need to reexamine the programs in place and come up with better options to treat multiple different aspects of addiction. We can do something about this epidemic and we need to. People cannot keep dying from legal medications while an illegal one may offer a solution.