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Doctors must lead us out of our opioid abuse epidemic

Dr. Sanjay Gupta
 

By Sanjay Gupta (Original source CNN)

“Veteran doctors don’t need a blood test to tell when someone is on the verge of a drug overdose. They can even narrow down the culprit by observation alone. Dilated pupils mean cocaine, amphetamines, maybe LSD. Constricted pupils mean an opiate.

Additionally, an opiate abuser is characteristically “nodding out” and often scratching their itchy skin. While their face is becoming pale and clammy, their fingernails and lips are starting to turn blue or even a sickly purplish-black. When the choking noises — or the deep snore gurgling sounds, known as the death rattle — begin, it’s time to act, and fast. That is a pretty clear sign the opiates have just turned off the person’s drive to breathe and they are in the throes of an overdose.

It is an awful sight, and yet more than 130 people die every day in this country after overdosing on any type of opioid. There is no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently. Deaths result from prescription opioid medications, such as hydrocodone, OxyContin and Percocet.”

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