East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark discussed the origins of Louisiana's opioid crisis, and strategies for ending it, during the January meeting of the LSU Faculty and Staff Retirees Club.
Opioids reduce pain, but are addictive. The body develops a tolerance and then craves more and higher doses to control the pain, he said.
For years, opiates were freely prescribed by physicians, who had been assured of their safety by pharmaceutical companies, Clark said. Doctors also accepted the idea that a patient’s personal pain scale was a fair measure of need, as the American Pain Society asserted.
In Louisiana, laws reducing prison time for nonviolent offenders provided added opportunity for heroin dealers, creating a "perfect storm," Clark said, according to a news release. Five people died from heroin in 2012, increasing to 46 by 2019, Clark told club members. More than 100 people died from all opioids in 2019.
Combating the opioid crisis should be a multipronged effort, Clark told club members, involving police, judges, legislators and physicians. The subjective pain-level scale should be scrapped, he said, and physicians should put a greater emphasis on alternative treatments, including such basic changes as footwear or exercise.
The LSU Faculty and Staff Retirees Club holds meetings, tours and social events through the academic year and is open to all retirees and their spouses. Contact email@example.com.