Wichita deals with flood of opioid abuse


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – KSN News talked with medical professionals here in Wichita about how they are working to stem the flood of opioid abuse.

It comes as the White House Commission leading the fight is asking President Trump to declare a national public health emergency. It is a problem that has been growing for years.

“Although opiates can be a very wonderful tool, they are not the only tool to address chronic pain.”

Dr. Robin Walker, an associate clinical professor at the KU School of Medicine in Wichita and family medical doctor, sees the opioid epidemic getting worse.

“And I think a lot of times we as physicians or practitioners reach for opioid pain medications maybe a little bit earlier than we need to be,” says Walker.

The epidemic is now front and center on the national stage, of the more than 52,000 overdose deaths in the country, 20,000 had to do with prescription pain relievers,

Here in Sedgwick County, the number actually is showing a slight drop. Opioid related deaths in 2014 were 160. In 2015, it was 159. A year later it dropped to 135. So far in 2017, there have been 36 deaths reported.

Dr. Walker says since 2013, Wesley Family Medicine stopped taking more chronic pain patients and closely evaluated their approach.

“Provider A would be prescribing medications one way and prescriber B would be doing them a different way, and there wasn’t a standardized approach.”

He says now doctors and physicians are on the same page about how much to prescribe and what to do beforehand.

“We screen all of our patients for risk of psychiatric illness. We screen all of our patients for past risk of addiction, family history of addiction. Anything that would increase their risk of having problems with narcotic medications.”

It also means every patient they treat gets drug screened at least once a year so if needed, they can get them help.

“If we are getting an indication that the patient is taking it for a secondary gain, such as that high feeling, that is a very different conversation to have. We need to get that patient into a treatment facility, we need to get them some intervention going.”

Dr. Walker says instead of going straight to pain medication, he says they will offer alternates like exercise mixed with a non-addictive medication like Tylenol.

He says if they get the sense someone is abusing their meds, or even selling them, they will immediately stop prescribing them medication.RELATED LINK | Trump drug commission calls for emergency declaration

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