National News, Op-eds & Guest Essays

COVID has been hiding another epidemic. We have to do more for our opioid patients.

Last year alone, nearly 110,000 people died from opiate use. This is a pill Americans cannot afford to continue to swallow.

Dr. Thomas K. Lew | Opinion Contributor

A 40-year-old man arrives in my hospital’s emergency department, blue from not breathing. It takes several rounds of medication and ventilators to save his life. That same day on the medical wards, an overhead speaker pages a “rapid response” announcement to my elderly patient’s room; she cannot wake up. And down the hallway, a middle-age finance manager is causing a scene because he isn’t prescribed the IV medication he wants.

All of these scenes happen on a daily basis, not just in my hospital but in those around the country. And all three of these patients’ ailments have the same cause: opioids.

Over the past three years, I’ve been taking care of patients stricken with COVID-19, young and elderly alike gasping for air. But the ebbs and flows of one pandemic have hidden the growing presence of another widespread disease: opioid dependence and abuse.