Is the opioid epidemic getting worse during covid 19.

Chronic Pain Specialist, Dr. Ramis Gheith believes the epidemic is soaring during the pandemic.

The opioid epidemic has gripped this nation for over two decades and is now getting worse! The CDC estimates over 450,000 opioid related deaths from 1999 thru 2018! Since COVID-19 the stress of the pandemic has worsened underlying conditions including depression, anxiety, stress and has lead to a decline in activity for most patients. All together, these factors lead to worsening chronic pain, substance abuse and suicide rates all of which have worsened during the pandemic. The decline in function and loss of social interactions continue to negatively impact our patient population. Top Chronic Pain Specialist, Dr. Ramis Gheith discusses how severe the epidemic has gotten.

Dr. Ramis Gheith: A recent analysis of urine toxicology tests showed an increase of abuse regarding fentanyl and illicit narcotics in the Spring months of 2020. Along with this disturbing trend, overdoses increased by almost 20%!

As an interventional pain management expert and minimally invasive spine specialist, it’s disheartening to see the number of opioid related deaths on the rise once more.

Dr Ramis Gheith

Chronic pain is a pathological process that involves abnormal signals often from our central nervous system that can lead to chronic lower back or neck pain and/or pain in our arms or legs. Treatments for chronic pain can be as simple as trigger point injections for focal and localized pain or as complex as nerve blocks, minimally invasive spinal decompression procedures, and the use of spinal cord stimulation therapy to control the pain.

The rise of opioid use, misuse and abuse can be attributed in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, patients are not maintaining regular follow up appointments with their care providers.

The lack of in person healthcare and the significant rise in depression, anxiety, financial stress and its psychological impact are all forces which may be driving the opioid train right off the cliff! It’s time for patients and physicians to have real contact via in person office visits for close monitoring and real physical examinations to help identify the source of the pain for optimal treatment.

The virtual healthcare system is burgeoning and patients (already experiencing less contact with their physicians since ACA) are now losing more of the personal care that comes from in person physician-patient interactions. The virtual companies and the health insurance industry would love for all of us to think this is the “better patient care option” but I would like for everyone to take a step back, take a deep breath, and ask our patients, is this really better?

Embedded in the virtual healthcare model is the inherent trust that must accompany patient care. The trust that our patients are being compliant, trust that they are reliable and take personal responsibility for their care and most importantly trust that medications are being used as prescribed.

Patients with chronic disease who fail to maintain in person doctor visits may have a worsening of their underlying co-morbid medical conditions. They may suffer from uncontrolled chronic disease that may lead to an increase in their systemic inflammatory response and result in detrimental consequences for their chronic and uncontrolled pain.

Chronic pain patients need regular in person follow up for close monitoring of their health conditions that can worsen their pain but also for human interaction with their physician. The physician-patient interaction in pain management is absolutely necessary and can not be fully fulfilled by a virtual visit.

Physicians and other healthcare providers can help blunt and reverse this disturbing rise in opioid overdoses and significant rise in opioid related healthcare costs. If you or someone you know is suffering from chronic uncontrolled pain, contact a fellowship trained pain management specialist for an in person evaluation and treatment plan.

About Dr Ramis Gheith: Dr Gheith is an expert and leader in the field of Interventional Pain Management and Neuromodulation. He is the founder and medical director of the Interventional Pain Institute.

He has completed years of extensive education beginning with his Bachelor Degree in Nursing to the highest level of education and training in the field of Anesthesiology. Dr. Gheith displayed his clinical and leadership acumen early on — Elected by his peers to be Chief Resident during his residency.

Dr. Gheith continues to be a leader in the field of Interventional Pain Management providing education and training to students, anesthesiology residents and colleagues.

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