About 80 percent of the opioids produced in the world are consumed in the United States, a panel member said Thursday during a forum addressing the abuse of addictive opioid drugs.
Dr. William J. Robb III said if you break a bone in other countries, opioids are not used. Robb, with the Illinois Bone & Joint Institute, was part of a panel of five experts who addressed the opioid crisis and the problems it causes in the workplace. The Daily Herald Business Ledger presented the forum at the Drake Hotel in Oak Brook.
Marie Wilson, a Daily Herald journalist who has extensively covered the topic, was the keynote speaker and addressed the impacts of opioid abuse. Last year, 668 people died in the suburbs from overdosing on opioids compared to 250 people in 2014, the award-winning journalist said.
Mary Lynn Fayoumi, president and CEO of The Management Association, served as moderator. She said it is important that employees are educated on the topic and that if they see drug problems, they should report them.
"There's a lot being said with the whole #MeToo movement about 'see something, say something' and I think the same kind of mentality or philosophy could be applied with regard to the issues of drug abuse in the workplace," she said.
Robb joined two other medical doctors on the panel -- Dr. Ankur Dave, a pain management specialist at Amita Health, and Dr. Gregory Teas, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer at Amita Health Behavioral Medicine Service Line.
The panelists agreed that doctors must be aware of the amount of opioids they are prescribing and look at other pain relief options for patients, when possible.
For a typical post-surgery recovery, a patient may require 6 to 12 tablets of a low-dose opioid, Teas said. They instead are often given a prescription for 30 to 60 pills, extras of which then sit in medicine cabinets. Teenagers in the home may then take the opioids and share with friends.
Teas said 55 percent of heroin use is preceded by young people using opioids from their medicine cabinet at home.
"I think most physicians would agree it's easier to prevent getting people on opioids rather than getting them off of them after they have developed tolerance and withdrawal, which can occur in as little as three to six days," he said.
It's not going to be a quick fix, but hospitals and addiction groups are centering in on the problem.
"It took us 10 years to recognize this as a crisis and it's going to take us a while to get out if it," Teas said.
Dave said when a patient receives a 10-day supply of opioids, there is a 20 to 25 percent chance that that person will still be using the drugs 12 months later. He said U.S. patients often receive opioids for a muscle strain where the rest of the world is treating the problem with ice and heat.
Panelist Chris Noone, chief talent officer of Thresholds treatment center, said stigma is an underlying issue behind the problem. She believes that awareness of the crisis must be heightened.
And Attorney Lance C. Ziebell of Lavelle Law stressed that it is important that companies have drug policies and that employees and supervisors are educated on the topic.
"Most employers don't have the right policies in place to deal with the problems," he said.
Amita Health and Illinois Bone & Joint Institute were sponsors of the event.