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Federal illegal opioid prescription bust shows dangerous betrayal of doctor-patient trust

Sixty physicians and pharmacists from Kentucky and Ohio were charged last week with illegally distributing opioid prescriptions in a crackdown federal prosecutors called the biggest of its sort in U.S. history.

Dr. Renee Solomon, a psychologist and CEO of Los Angeles alcohol and drug addiction treatment center Forward Recovery, said the bust reflects a national problem that addiction specialists and health care providers must help resolve.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the indicted medical professionals include dentists, general practitioners, nurse practitioners, orthopedic specialists and podiatrists. In all, investigators told the Enquirer, the illegal prescriptions put as many as 32 million pain pills in patients’ hands. Investigators told the Enquirer that some of the indicted doctors stand accused of pulling teeth unnecessarily to justify writing pain pill prescriptions, giving prescriptions to Facebook friends without proper medical exams and trading drugs for sex. Data suggest that abusing prescription drugs can lead to worse drug addiction; the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that 80 percent of heroin users first misused prescription opioids. Dr. Solomon said physicians should know the perilous consequences of inappropriate subscriptions. “People look to their doctors because they trust them and feel that they know more than the average person about health and wellness,” Dr. Solomon said. “It is such a betrayal for doctors to take advantage of that trust and lead the public down a road that often leads to addiction and overdose.” Given the breadth of the opioid crisis — the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 218,000 people died from prescription opioid-related overdoses from 1999 to 2017 — health professionals need to help rescue patients who have been led unwittingly toward addiction, Dr. Solomon said. “There is a lot of treatment available to people who are addicted to pain pills,” she said. “We just have to help connect them with the right type of treatment and increase awareness of the consequences of opioid prescription pills.”

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