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Opioid-Related Deaths In San Diego County Keep Steady

October 27, 2017 1:15 p.m.

Opioid-Related Deaths In San Diego County Keep Steady


Dr. Roneet Lev, emergency department physician, Scripps Mercy

Related Story: Opioid-Related Deaths In San Diego County Keep Steady


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Our top story amid the addition now that President Donald Trump has declared opioid [ NULL ] -- abuse there hoping for some help in battling the epidemic.'s announcement comes on the heels of you numbers released by the county about deaths and emergency room visits. County health officials said there were 253 opioid -related deaths in San Diego in 2016. Number that's only slightly higher than the previous year. Abuse statistics are not rising dramatically but there is no significant drop in deaths or emergencies. Joining me is Doctor Roneet Lev, emergency department physician, Scripps Mercy . She is also a medical emergency physician. Welcome to the program.Thank you so much.First of all, what is your reaction to the declaration of a public health emergency?I think it's wonderful that the president has made this a priority for our nation as we know people dying from opioid and prescription drugs is a bipartisan issue important to all Americans and the declaration will put focus and priority in solving this epidemic.We think about his push for an initiative to develop non-addictive painkillers? How close are we do something like that?The CDC is working on that as well as the national Institute of health. That is within our reach. It is part of a multi-factorial approach to combating the epidemic. It will not be any one measure that resolves.What additional steps if any would you like to hear the president take to curb this epidemic.I would like to see an emphasis on prevention as well as treatment. When this started around 1990 to 2000, we removed a lot of the speed bumps that we had for prescribing. The medical community was told that these medications are safe and non-addicting. Something that we've learned a tragically that is not true. So I would love to see what I call closing the faucet from the top not paying for prescriptions that kill in putting those measures that we used to have over 10 years ago that we lost.As I noted this week, the county released a report on prescription opioid -related deaths. They were up slightly. What other statistics stand out to you in this report questionAny number of deaths are tragic. The rate per resident is stable even though the number has gone up. Something that we've done well as a county but still not good enough is decreasing the number of prescriptions that we are giving for both pain medicine and exciting. Were making a dent but not enough.I noticed visits to the ER were up this year and the statistics that were released by the county. Have you noticed that in your job as an emergency room physician?I think we are seeing more and we are more aware. I think that is also going up with the numbers.Saturday is prescription drug take back day for people who want to get rid of unused medication. You found people have a number of different reasons for taking back their drugs and disposing them. Tell us about that.The importance is getting rid of medications that end up in harm. When example of that is a patient that took Percocet. She ended up with a Tylenol overdose from that. It turns out she got her medications from her husband's back surgery. He was given 100 Percocet and needed only one. Months later when she felt depressed, she took her husband's medications and ended up with the overdose in the ICU with liver damage. If you don't need the medications, they need to be disposed of properly for safety not just for you and your family but people who are may be exposed and for people who might struggle with opioids. A source for where to go for takeback programs and assistance is on our website San Diego Rx abuse task with various resources.Next experts will be gathering for the opioid policy Summit. Are there issues specific to California that affect opioid use your question markThe problem is something that is throughout the United States. We consume 99% of the hydrocodone. So California is unique in its own medical community and law enforcement community and policies. We share in the need for solutions and approaches as our states.For a list of locations that will accept and use prescriptions tomorrow, go to takeback day dot --