Opioid Epidemic: Surgeon General to mail 2.3 million letters

The Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Vivek Murthy will need some rehab and pain management supplies when he finishes writing the 2.3 million letters he intends to mail to every doctor in America. If we were to speculate on the contents of the letter, it might go a little something like this: “You must send this on in 3 hours after reading the letter to 10 different people. If you do this you will receive unbelievably good luck. If you do not, each and every one of your patients will start overdosing on prescription opioid painkillers one by one. This is not a joke. You have read the warnings, seen the cases, and the consequences. You must send this on or face dreadfully bad luck.”

Fortunately, we do not have to speculate about the contents of the letter. Here it is. Sadly, the letter makes no mention of alternative approaches – not ‘alternative’ as in herbs and supplements, but as in drug-free, non-addictive options such as TENS units and other rehab and pain management supplies. Nevertheless, the measure is unprecedented as well as an indication of the magnitude of the opioid epidemic and its cost in human lives. There may also be a little Frank Capra-esque naiveté in  the whole initiative, but as Dr. Murthy writes in the letter, “as cynical as times may seem, the public still looks to our profession for hope during difficult moments. This is one of those times.”

Furthermore, many physicians don’t know, in fact were never taught, that opioids are detective. For example, the Surgeon General related in the Aspen Ideas Festival how when he mentioned opioids being addictive to a friend of his – a Florida cardiologist –, said friend replied, “wait, you mean they are addictive?'” Then the friend proceeded to check his beeper. A patient was asking could he please refill his prescription for leeches. The old ones were full, already. Does he practice medicine in Florida, or retired there? Though to be fair, this doctor friend does administer electrotherapy – by having the patient stand on an electric eel. Not aware that rehab and pain management supplies, including electrotherapy devices, are easily available at Discount Medical Supplies.

 Similarly, “many clinicians have told me they weren't aware of just how bad the (opioid epidemic) problem had gotten,” Murthy said, and he should know; he is a Vice Admiral. “Many were not aware of the connection between the epidemic and prescribing habits.” One has to wonder how much awareness a letter can raise in the age of the internet and e-mails, but at least he didn’t fax the thing. That’s gotta count for something.

Related: Opioid substitute being developed, meanwhile try TENS units