The President's Corner
On December 7, 1941, 2,403 Americans died at Pearl Harbor. On September 11, 2001, 2,996 Americans were killed. In 2015, the United States lost over 33,000 – about 2,750 souls per month - to the opioid epidemic that is plaguing our nation. In fact, Parma has lost many residents this year, not to mention the lives saved daily by Parma’s safety forces who revive opioid addicts from overdoses. This growing problem is costing our nation, our state and our city many lives and taxpayer dollars. Someone has to pay for this attack.
Opioids, such as Oxycodone (often prescribed as OxyContin), are frequently prescribed by doctors to alleviate pain. For instance, in 2015, my wife had her gall bladder removed. Following surgery, her doctor prescribed 40 OxyContin tablets. The drug made her sick and, after only two doses, she stopped taking it, opting for extra-strength Tylenol, instead. In fact, recent studies reveal that over-the-counter pain relievers, like Ibuprofen, are just as effective as opioids.
Opioids are highly addictive. In fact, most studies reveal that prescription opioids are often the gateway to addiction. Thus, when prescriptions run out, addicts seek alternatives, especially illegally obtained heroine or fentanyl.
Opioid statistics are staggering. For instance, in 2016, studies revealed that opioid-related deaths contributed to a 2 ½ month drop in life span in the United States. Further, it is costing our country annually over $500 billion. No doubt, it is costing Parma’s taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars every month, not to mention placing a huge strain on our safety forces. This is why our city leaders have filed a lawsuit against the makers and distributors of opioids, who, much like the tobacco companies, knowingly and aggressively sell defective products. We deserve reimbursement for the costs of their addictive and deadly practices.
I would argue that some doctors share in the guilt. For instance, we have all heard the stories of “pill mills.” However, did you know that doctors are eligible for funds from pharmaceutical companies, AKA “Big Pharma,” for helping promote their products. Lucky, the Affordable Care Act requires that they report these payments, which can viewed at the following websites: projects.propublica.org/docdollars or openpaymentsdata.cms.gov/search/physicians. I searched every doctor in Parma and found that many are receiving hundreds to thousands of dollars a year. In fact, my wife’s surgeon took in around $11,000 in 2015. Are these “kickbacks?” Did these payments influence his decision to prescribe my wife 40 of what are well-known to be highly addictive pills? Check out your doctor and ask them questions the next time you see him or her. You and I can do our part to end this potentially unethical practice, as well as the over-prescribing of opioids.
Incidentally, should you have any prescription drugs in your medicine cabinet that you no longer need, I suggest disposing of them properly. The Parma Police Department has a no questions asked drug disposal drop box located at their offices at 5555 Powers Boulevard. Do not flush them down the toilet or drop them down the drain, as this is not good for the water supply. This will also keep them out of the wrong hands. Addicts, including relatives, visitors to open-houses, and others have been known to steal medications that are laying around.
In closing, I wish to thank Parma’s police and emergency medical servants for their service to our community. I cannot imagine how they deal emotionally with being tasked with bringing people back to life from drug overdoses on a daily basis. Further, my prayers are with those who are dealing with the tragedy of addiction. Help is available. Call the ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County at 216-241-3400 or visit www.adamhscc.org. Best wishes Parma for a blessed Christmas and Holiday Season.
Parma City Council President Sean Brennan