Vox recently featured Atul Gawande, MD, a public health researcher, author and endocrinologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, on its podcast, “The Weeds,” to discuss the physician’s role in the opioid epidemic, among other topics.
Here are three quotes from Dr. Gawande.
1. On treating pain as the fifth vital sign: “I saw this all the time in my surgical training — that we did not treat pain,” said Dr. Gawande. “That we left people in terrible pain and suffering, and it was a kind of inhumanity that I thought was unacceptable. So I really keyed into the lessons from people like palliative care clinicians who said we have to measure pain, and we have to treat pain. But what we had not done was continue to measure what was happening along the way … Basically, I was like more is better, take some.”
2. On the epidemic: “We as a profession have caused an epidemic that is bigger than the HIV epidemic,” said Dr. Gawande. “We have more deaths from drug overdoses than occurred at the peak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in 1995. That’s how big this is. It’s more deaths than in motor vehicle accidents. The cause in the opioid epidemic starts with getting a prescription of opioids from physicians.”
3. On four ways to address the crisis: “Number one … we should be prescribing way less than we often give out, and we should have the research that shows what that need really is,” said Dr. Gawande. “Second, we have to teach people that the goal is not zero pain — the goal is that you have enough pain that there will be an ache but you can do the things you want to do. You can sleep, you can eat, you can go shopping. Third, tell people these are addictive and weighing that against your choices. Fourth, teach them how to dispose of these things. The biggest thing is that the leftovers get stolen and then go on the black market that way.”
To listen to the podcast, click here.