Ian Stoddart has been a paramedic for 30 years. He is currently working in Ardmore, PA which is a suburb outside of Philadelphia. Despite his location in the wealthier suburbs, Stoddart finds himself frequently on call for opiate or other drug overdoses.
Stoddart said he believes insurance companies and hospital administrators are partially responsible for the opiate epidemic because they are encouraging doctors to overprescribe pain medications. In many hospitals, patients are asked to fill out surveys describing their satisfaction with their treatment based on their pain levels. This prompts doctors to overprescribe pain medications so their patients will give their treatment in the hospital a good rating. If a hospital receives several good ratings, an insurance reimbursement is given out.
Stoddart added that the doctors on government panels also believe we need to cut back on the prescription of pain medications, but legislators have done nothing to enforce this idea.
“People who are doctors should be writing medical legislation, but they aren’t,” Stoddart said.
“10 years ago, the police force was trying to tell legislatures that there was a problem,” added Eric Miller, an Ardmore police officer. “But they [legislatures] just weren’t seeing it.”
As a result of ignorance on the part of legislatures, the opiate epidemic continues to grow. From 2002 to 2015, the total number of U.S. overdose deaths doubled from roughly 25,000 to 50,000.
Miller said the use of Narcan has allowed police forces everywhere to save a lot more lives, but unfortunately Narcan is not available everywhere. Narcan is currently illegal in Kansas, Missouri and Arizona, and it is strictly regulated in many other states.
Miller and Stoddart made it even more clear to me that a nation-wide solution for the opiate epidemic must come from legislatures, who are unfortunately very ill-informed about the causes of the opiate epidemic and the potential solutions. Therefore, it is much easier for each state and each city to implement smaller, local programs and local laws to try and combat the opiate epidemic in smaller regions. If enough cities and states do this, it is more likely that programs and laws will become implemented at the national level, because legislatures will be able to see which solutions have worked well and why they worked for a specific region.