Prescribing the Solution
No one wants to admit that they have a drug problem, but we have to be honest with ourselves: Staten Island has one.
Prescription drug abuse has had a hold on the borough for many years affecting Islanders of all walks of life. Death from these medications is four times higher than anywhere else in the city and has killed more Islanders than homicides and motor vehicle accidents combined last year.
The addiction can take on a life of its own when users move to heroin as a more affordable alternative when the habit becomes too expensive. Pills are sold on the street for $20 - $30 a pill. On average, addicts consume about 15-20 pills per day.
That's why it's so important we're vigilant as physicians and private citizens to curb this epidemic. Recently, NYC Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farely addressed borough physicians on Prescribers have many new alternatives to opioid medications for pain management and sleep aids.
So what can you do?
We need to make these medications less accessible to everyone. If you have medications in your home that you're not using or are out of date - get them out of the house. This will make you safer because of potential for accidental interactions with other medications – which is another topic we'll discuss in another issue. It will also safeguard your home from people with unscrupulous motives.
Staten Island University Hospital routinely partners up with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency for "Drug Take Back Day," an initiative to get outdated and excess medications out of homes, so take part.
If you're an employer, set up an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for your workers to get access treatment and counseling.
Even though Staten Island has a population that rivals Miami, it has a small town feel. Everyone knows each other and we all know someone who suffers from addiction or suffered the loss of someone who has died from a prescription overdose.
This problem is bigger than any one person; we all have to play our part.
View the NY1 News story here.
Theodore Strange, MD, associate chairman of the Department Medicine and vice president of Medical Operations, SIUH South.