Open Letter to the People of Massachusetts

Globe: Open Letter to the People of MassachusettsThis letter also appeared on Page A13 of the Boston Sunday Globe on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.

Dear Friends:

A horrible epidemic of opioid overdoses has been sweeping our Commonwealth. Thousands of people have died, and many more are addicted. It is a public health crisis that has penetrated into every community in the Commonwealth.

I have been practicing family medicine in Worcester for many years, so I know that physicians will never abandon patients who are in pain. I also know that those same physicians are committed to doing everything in their power to end the overdose crisis.

We recognize that opioid medications may lead some people to addiction. That’s why I’m calling on physicians to carefully assess addiction risk before prescribing, and then to prescribe the smallest possible dose of pain medications, for the shortest period of time possible.

I’m also encouraging patients everywhere to have open, candid conversations with their doctor about opioids. If you’re concerned, it’s OK to ask about the risks, as well as the benefits. It’s also OK to ask whether alternatives to opioids would be effective for you.

Addiction is a chronic disease that can be difficult to overcome. Patients in its grip often struggle with relapses, and can be discouraged by the challenge of maintaining their recovery. Ending this epidemic will not be easy.

However, we can beat this if we all work together. One important starting point is to prevent addiction before it starts. Your doctor stands ready to help you.

Sincerely,

Dennis M. Dimitri, MD

President, Massachusetts Medical Society

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