- The Washington Times - Monday, April 17, 2017


“It’s killing people left and right,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan pointed out a couple of months ago, when he outlined his fight against opioids.

And well he did: Addictive drugs like opioids, acetaminophen and heroin do not discriminate, nor do they need to.

Did you know:

— One of the fastest-growing groups of new prescription drug abusers are 12- to 17-year-olds and 18- to 25-year-olds, according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

— Some of the street names for opiates are Pain Killer (what irony), Schoolboy, Hillbilly Heroin, Goodfella and China White.

— Combining some common antihistamines with acetaminophen can lead to an overdose and, worse, death. Neither pharmaceutical requires a prescription, which means both are available over-the-counter.

What often happens is a patient takes acetaminophen for aches or pains or the flu, and then antihistamine for allergies, cold symptoms and restful sleep. (Recall how loopy Will Smith’s character became in “Hitch” after downing antihistamines for an awful food-allergy episode?)

As for colds, old-fashioned chicken soup has been replaced with OTC remedies that we start pouring down kids’ throats as soon as they no longer need nipples.

The popular internet site WebMD lists scores and scores of opioids and other pain medications. There are multiple pills and injections, perhaps suggesting that either patients or medical professionals aren’t asking enough questions or recommending enough alternatives to opioids. Or both.

Opioids led to the deaths of Freud, Elvis and Michael. Judy, Marilyn and Janis. Belushi, Whitney and Prince.

As a matter of recent fact, investigative documents unsealed Monday in the untimely death of Prince revealed that bottles labeled for such everyday use as Bayer and Aleve were filled with opiates.

Investigators said that, in at least one case, a prescription opiate for Prince was procured not in Prince’s name but in the name Kirk Johnson, one of the music man’s longtime personal friends and employees.

There’s little doubt that Prince, who for decades pranced on stage in high-heeled boots, was in physical pain. That he seemingly became addicted to the pain reliever fentanyl was a killer.

We know too that the rich and the famous “doctor shop,” and that during the course of their travels, they can get doctors to write prescriptions and hide the truth from their life-sustaining audiences.

The alarms are ringing as loud as church bells, and the message is clear: Stem the tide on opioid use and abuse.

For sure, pain from surgery, an extracted tooth, the bump and grind that athletes undergo, and the pains of such diseases as arthritis leave many seeking relief.

There’s also the opioid addict, hillbilly or not, who turns to the “street pharmacist” for heroin, and pill hustlers when a bona fide doctor and his scripts can’t ease the pain. And the OTC convenience at the nearby pharmacy is the “drugstore” when all else fails.

It’s important to remember as much when your child, spouse, friend, parents, church member, neighbor, teammate or schoolmate — or patient — says they are in pain.

The drugs, illegal or prescribed, may temporarily ease the ache or pain. However, the drugs, illegal and prescribed, are killing to the left of us and to the right of us.

That’s the cold, hard reality that must be stemmed.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com

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