The latest edition of The Epidemiology Monitor included an extensive interview with Dr. Robert Pack, associate dean for academic affairs in the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health and executive director of the ETSU Center for Prescription Drug Abuse and Treatment, on the issue of the opioid crisis.
[Photo: Dr. Robert Pack]
In the interview, Dr. Pack discussed the opioid drug problem as a national public health emergency, with an estimated 175 persons dying from drug overdoses per day. He stated, “Unintentional poisonings, a category that includes overdose deaths, is the overall leading cause of injury death. It surpassed motor vehicle accidents, falls, suicides and homicides in the U.S. several years ago.”
Dr. Pack continued that motor vehicle accidents can be discussed objectively; however, it is more difficult to process overdose objectively and to acknowledge the scale of the public health problem it presents. The stigma associated with drug use can prevent users from seeking treatment. At the same time, some community members focus solely on the criminal justice aspects of the epidemic, and don’t address the treatment needs of patients.
Dr. Pack noted that the overdose problem has multiple drivers, including dramatic growth in prescribed medications, and profits associated with each step of the supply chain.
The feature covered the changing demographics of individuals involved in the crisis, drivers of the overdose problem, and how risk perception affects opioid usage. Dr. Pack discussed the need for continuing scientific work on communication between prescribers, dispensers, and patients with the aim of creating interventions to improve accurate risk and help-seeking communication.
The Epidemiology Monitor provides news about the latest developments in epidemiology and information about resources epidemiologists can use to advance their careers. It was founded in 1980 by Dr. Roger H. Bernier, who serves as editor and publisher.