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An important step in any effort to reduce the impact of the opioid epidemic is preventing unnecessary exposure to the drug in the first place, and keeping opioid doses limited and of brief duration. Unfortunately, we only know that in retrospect. A major reason for our current plight was government pressure and drug-company complicity that led physicians to widely prescribe opioids.

In 1995, the American Pain Society published aggressive guidelines for treatment of pain, and in 1999 Veterans Affairs determined that pain would be considered a “vital sign” like blood pressure and temperature. VA guidelines required every veteran to be screened for pain at every encounter.

While I applaud our elected officials’ concern and desire to make a difference, I caution that we not look to a legislative foray into the practice of medicine as the solution when such an approach in part is what got us here.

Making assessment and treatment of addiction a much higher priority and allocating resources is where our public officials can truly make an impact.

John H. Vassall MD, FACP, Physician Executive, Quality & Safety-QSI, Qualis Health, Seattle