The opioid epidemic: How we got here, how we stop it

Dr. Robert Valuck
Dr. Robert Valuck

The opioid crisis in America today stems from decisions made in the 1980s. And although there are now federal and state programs in place, more treatment options underway and better awareness, the problem is going to get worse before it gets better. In this month’s CU on the Air, Dr. Robert Valuck, professor at the Skaggs School or Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, talks with host Ken McConnellogue about how we got here, and what we all can do to stop the epidemic, save lives and prevent future addiction.

  • How the epidemic started in the ‘80s and what has spawned its growth.
  • Why, although the pendulum is swinging back, it will be a while before any slowing of the epidemic will be seen.
  • Everyone knows someone or knows of someone who is suffering from addiction.
  • The myth that opioids offer better pain relief – Tylenol and Ibuprofen alternated work just as well.
  • Opioids are controlled substances because they can kill you, not because they work better.
  • About 6 percent of Coloradans admit non-medically using an opioid during the past year, and those are the only ones who admitted it.
  • Where was Colorado hit first by this epidemic?
  • Now, every area of the state – and country – is affected.
  • How do people get hooked? Look in your medicine cabinet.
  • New state laws that restrict opioid prescriptions and a database to prevent “doctor shopping.”
  • Naloxone, how you can get it and how it can save a life.
  • Lifting the Label, and fighting the stigma of addiction.
  • Do your part to stop the epidemic. Get rid of leftover opioids at the pharmacy or at take-back boxes around the state, which can be found at org.


3 thoughts on “The opioid epidemic: How we got here, how we stop it

  1. Please keep in mind the people with serious untreatable chronic conditions that need the opioids as a last resort ( they tried alternatives that were not efficient – injections, alternative medication), the responsible patients that don’t get addicted and don’t misuse their medication. they are the ones caught in the middle and suffering due to the addicts that abuse the medication.

    can a set of rules be made for the responsible patients?

    is 4,000 mg of Aspirin or Tylenol and 2,700 mg of Ibuprofen a day good for somebody?

  2. “Thanks for your input regarding the CU on the Air podcast on the opioid epidemic. We agree, there are many people suffering from chronic pain conditions, and for many of them, opioids are a viable form of treatment. We leave those decisions to individual doctors and patients, and do not advocate for removal of opioids from the market, or for anything that harms a person who has legitimate medical need for them. Our goals are to reduce opioid prescribing “en masse”, because not all people need them, and we have too many people becoming addicted, overdosing, and dying to sit back and do nothing. Our goal is (and always has been and always will be) to reduce the overdose problem, while protecting doctor and patient access to ALL forms of therapies for pain treatment. Many of the things you said (rules for responsible patients) do now exist, in the form of prescribing guidelines for chronic pain conditions and patients, and doctors are learning about them and we are promoting them. And last but not least, you are correct, any medication (Tylenol or ibuprofen included) has side effects, and must be used reasonably and under the care of a doctor, to achieve best results. No medication is side effect free, and we leave it to doctors to determine what is best for individual patients, and believe that they should have access to a wide variety of options, including opioids when deemed appropriate.”

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