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Warning labels don't get to the root of our addiction problem

Most physicians are not properly trained about addiction and recovery.

While we all acknowledge there is a persistent abuse of opiod painkillers that causes addiction and overdose in the U.S., having the FDA strengthen the warning labels on these drugs does not get to the root cause of the problem ("FDA adds boldest warning to most widely used painkillers," March 22).

Many patients are in need of strong painkillers, and with an aging population we will see that need increase. While some physicians may prescribe too many painkillers, I don't believe that's the main cause of our current epidemic.

At the heart of this problem is the reality that most physicians are not properly trained about the process of addiction and recovery. Therefore, when a patient is given an addictive pain medication, the physician needs to educate and reassure the patient that while they will become addicted to the medication, he or she will work with them to detoxify them so they aren't left with an addiction.

This is currently not being done, which is why many patients who are left with an addiction to painkillers quickly turn to heroin, which is actually cheaper and easier to get than prescription medications. That has led to our current epidemic.

I encourage the Maryland legislature and the state's medical community to immediately create a mandatory education and training program on addiction for all physicians who prescribe addictive painkillers. We are not going to eliminate pain and the need for pain medications, but we can teach our physicians how to provide safer and better care for their patients.

Mike Gimbel, Timonium

The writer is the former Baltimore County Drug Czar and a recovering addict.

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