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Letter: Doctors have to recognize some patients need opioids

Doctors have to recognize some patients need opioids

The practice of medicine and the humane treatment of patients would take giant steps backward if policy solutions to the opioid addiction “crisis” did not guarantee that people who need opioids for pain relief will still be able to access these critically important medications in sufficient amounts without additional hardship. We raise this issue because already some doctors have said they will avoid prescribing these medications in response to new laws and rules.

There is reason to be concerned that the response to this latest drug crisis will involve policy mistakes. After all, that’s the history of the entire war on drugs. It was recently reported that John Ehrlichman, a top aide to President Richard Nixon, admitted that Nixon initiated the “war on drugs” in the early 1970s as a political maneuver to use law enforcement to arrest and imprison hippies, protesters and African-Americans. Since then, literally $1 trillion has been spent on this ill-conceived failed “war” that has ruined countless lives, causing so much more harm than good.

Thankfully, the opioid crisis is being viewed primarily as a public health issue, which deserves a public health response. This humane course of action should be equally applied to those who really need opioids for pain relief. Moreover, it should prompt us to reconsider all drug laws that have criminalized and punished other drug users. It’s time to end the incarceration of people senselessly imprisoned for personal drug use and nonviolent drug offenses.

Walter Simpson

Nan Simpson, R.N.