Pennsylvania Addiction Treatment Guide

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In 2016, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf went to the White House with his concerns about the high rate of addiction to prescription opioids in his state. The governor chose to focus his efforts on remedying shortcomings in the medical training arena. As Governor Wolf accurately notes, most medical and dental schools teach students about opioid medications but do not sufficiently educate them on their attendant risk of addiction. For Governor Wolf, the lack of emphasis and proper training on addiction at the level of medical and dental education has contributed to doctors writing prescriptions for patients who were not adequately screened for addiction potential.

Although there are more layers to the prescription opioid epidemic raging in Pennsylvania, the governor’s approach addresses an important root cause. This approach would help to ensure that the next generation of practicing physicians learns from prior mistakes and helps their patients to avoid addiction.

The prescription opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania and the US overall is unique in that the drugs of abuse are legally manufactured and lawfully distributed. However, the availability of these drugs and their high risk of addiction have led to perverse practices among people seeking to abuse prescription opioids. For instance, some individuals engage in a practice known as doctor shopping, which involves going to different doctors to collect extra opioid medications. In some instances, the individual may have a health condition that requires pain management but takes too much of these medications in order to get high. In other instances, a person may doctor shop and falsify symptoms in order to get medications. Doctors may not have adequate training to recognize opioid abuse, but there is a way to help stop the practice of doctor shopping.

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In 2014, Pennsylvania passed a law that implemented a prescription monitoring database. Now doctors as well as law enforcement officials may have access to patient information that can reveal doctor shopping. It would be helpful if this information could also legally be used to identify individuals who need treatment. Although the drug epidemic in Pennsylvania is complex, it’s clear Governor Wolf is willing to be creative in his efforts to help his constituents dig out of the trenches of prescription abuse.