To kick off Season 10 of The Doctors, we are assembling a task force to take on America's growing opioid epidemic. To illustrate just how serious the epidemic is, ER physician Dr. Travis Stork shares that opioid overdose deaths now outnumber deaths caused by guns and car crashes and in 2016 cost the U.S. 8 billion dollars.
The first member of our task force is Judge Mary Chrzanowski, also known as "Scary Mary," who is known for her tough love approach.
"I'm very blunt... you're not going to like it sometimes, but that's just who I am," Judge Chrzanowski, who has been on the bench since she was 31 and has presided over felonies, civil disputes and also worked as a family judge. During the course of her career, she has encountered countless defendants dealing with drugs and their effects and she feels their drug use started with either marijuana or prescription drugs.
The issue of drug use and addiction hits home for Judge Chrzanowski, as she explains that she's battled an alcohol addiction and is celebrating 15 years of sobriety.
Despite her tough reputation, Judge Chrzanowski wants the best for each person who appears before her. "I don't want to put you in prison, I want you to be a good person and enjoy life, bring yourself up because you're better and bigger than any addiction," she explains.
One aspect of the opioid crisis may be linked to findings of a recent study which discovered that 1 in 12 U.S doctors have received payments from makers of opioid prescription drugs. Former pharmaceutical sales rep Mychal Wilson, who is now a lawyer, joins the panel to shares his experience. He says that during his time as a pharmaceutical sales rep, he was instructed to encourage doctors to overprescribe opiates to patients. According to Mychal, incentives like cash, alcohol, tickets to sporting events and lavish trips were used to entice doctors to prescribe specific medications to patients.
The Doctors note they have never experienced this type of pressure from pharmaceutical companies and are trained and take classes on opioid dosage and prescription methods.
So who is to blame for this growing problem? The Doctors, Judge Chrzanowski and Mychal discuss how complicated and how many different aspects to this problem there are and acknowledge that there are numerous factors and multiple parties involved.
"We're not going to solve the opioid crisis one day, in one week, it's going to take some time. But, acknowledging it exists is the first step," Dr. Stork continues.
See more of this important discussion in the video below and in future episodes.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction please call the confidential and free National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP or visit their website. Additional resources can be found at Recovery.org and on the Alcoholic Anonymous website.