KILLEEN, Texas - The federal government will spend a record $4.6 billion this year to fight the nation's opioid crisis. This is three times as much as it's currently costing to battle a crisis which, in 2016, killed 42,000 Americans.
Now, FOX44 is partnering with Integrated Pain Associates in Killeen to break down what stands in the way of a healthier Central Texas.
"Safety first. Pain second. Safety second. Safety third. Then comes your pain," says Dr. Scott Irvine.
Physicians have battled it for decades. The pills they are prescribing for patients to push past pain is becoming an out of control problem.
"282 million opioid prescriptions by doctors in 2012. Is that too many? That is too many," says Dr. Benjamin Lowry. "There is an over-utilization of those types of pain medications and under-utilization of other resources that we have to treat pain."
Prescription and illegal opioids account for over 60 percent of overdose deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This number has quadrupled over the past two decades.
"Addiction is something that creeps in," Irvine says. "No one comes to our office or approaches a doctor and gets a pain prescription with the plan to become addicted. It's usually an after-the-fact issue, so it's our job to make sure that we look behind them."
The Lone Star State saw 1,376 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2016.
"The arena of pain management is changing so quickly right now," says Lydia Bailey, of Integrated Pain Associates. "And with the opioid crisis going on, we really feel it's important to have that communication because the only way patients are treated effectively is if everyone is on the same page."
A new report by health-benefits provider Castlight claims opioids cost the state $20 billion each year - ranking Texas seventh in the nation. Four of the top 25 cities for opioid abuse are also in Texas.
"Our educational opportunities are limited to how many people go to our website," Irvine says. "By partnering with someone who, in the past, has had a significant role in establishing public service announcements like FOX44, we are able to reach a broader population and take a lead role in establishing a conversation."
If you have any questions about opioids that you want FOX44 or Integrated Pain Associates to answer, you can email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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