Understanding and Fixing the Opioid Addiction

by | May 25, 2022 |

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Opioid addiction and the increasing number of overdoses have finally caught the public’s attention. Some 107,000 people died of overdoses in 2021. About two-thirds of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is 50-100 times more potent than morphine. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), in 2021, fentanyl killed more Americans than guns and traffic crashes combined. 

How did this happen? Management of non-cancer pain went through a slow evolution starting in 1980. Then we had “pain as the 5th vital sign” — adding to the standard heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and blood pressure. We were told the new breed of opioids were “safe and effective” (just like the Covid vaccines). 

Then physicians gave all the pain meds the patient said they needed based on some 1 to 10 smiley and frowny faces. Of course, we might have done a better job by just talking with the patient — seeing the patient as a whole. The patient may be someone who lost their job, whose dog just died, or who is miserable in their love life. 

The next thing you know, patients got addicted, and we were told to cut back on the pain meds. Some states even had specific laws capping the number of pain meds a patient could legally obtain. Then patients got drugs on the street. The drugs were laced with the faster-acting and more powerful fentanyl, a narcotic legitimately used as an anesthetic in hospital settings. Fentanyl was cheap (like other things from China) and flowed freely across the Mexican border. Then the patients (and other opioid users) started to die from overdoses. What comes next?

Dr. Molly Rutherford is the founder, medical director, and physician at Bluegrass Family Wellness — a direct primary care clinic in Kentucky. She is board certified in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, and employs a holistic approach to her patients’ physical health. She has more than a decade of experience treating opioid addiction. 


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Dr. Marilyn M. Singleton

Dr. Singleton is a board-certified anesthesiologist and past president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. She graduated from Stanford and earned her MD at UCSF Medical School. Dr. Singleton completed 2 years of Surgery residency at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, and her Anesthesia residency at Harvard’s Beth Israel Hospital. She was on the faculty at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, before returning to California for private practice. While still working in the operating room, she attended UC Berkeley Law School, focusing on constitutional and administrative law. She interned at the National Health Law Project, and practiced insurance and health law.

Dr. Singleton has published numerous articles, given presentations on health policy, and had many radio and television appearances, and a monthly radio show, Health Freedom Now. She started a blood pressure screening clinic at her church and make-shift clinics in two rural villages in El Salvador. Dr. Singleton ran for Congress in 2012 with a message of personal freedom and limited government.

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