In the midst of the opioid epidemic, some citizens and professionals within the industry question the validity of current opioid statistics.
“I don’t really think the numbers are adding up here,” Lansing local and current opioid user Savannah Berthiaume, 19, said. “It sure seems like any local politician can open their mouth and say some numbers about opioids to scare people. I think a lot of these claims are just an attempt to further demonize medicine.”
Doubt lingers over several heads throughout those in the opioid industry. Dr. Sherry Yafai, a classically trained emergency department physician, offers some advice on one element of potential confusion with the terminology.
“If somebody told you to grab a painkiller and they didn’t tell you anything else, you have the choices of Tylenol, Motrin, Advil, Aleve, Narco, Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycodone, morphine – the list goes on!” said Yafai.
“If no one sat there and told you the differences between all of these painkillers, how would you know which ones count?” Yafai said. “You’re left struggling with this.”
John Cruz is the CEO of ProveIt! a company whose mission statement is to reduce the number of opioid deaths nationwide. Cruz believes there are several unaccounted for factors to compiling data regarding opioid use and estimates that scientific journals are undercounting opioid related death by 20 to 35 percent.
“We prescribe these guidelines for how we count the [opioid-related] deaths in the area but then you talk to a coroner or an elected official in the area and you see great variants there,” Cruz said.
The scope of the opioid crisis may be up for debate, but one thing everyone can agree on is the need to keep those overdose numbers down.
“We have to get forward thinking,” Cruz said. “We have got to know what’s coming down the pipeline and put up the right sort of guardrails to protect the patients.”