Addiction expert: Doctors duped, must help fix opioid epidemic


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids doctor who specializes in addiction medicine says the medical industry is to blame for the rising opioid epidemic now claiming countless lives.

“Physicians never meant to harm anyone. Doctors were duped. They made pain the fifth vital sign and OxyContin was touted as a non-addictive drug. Patient satisfaction scores came along. We broke it and the hoNOS (Health of the Nation Outcome Scale) is on us as a medical profession to help fix it,” said Dr. Sandy Dettman of the Dettman Center.

Dettman helped treat Kelly Galbraith, whose descent into opioid addiction was captured on video by a friend. Galbraith nearly died from a toxic mix of heroin and methamphetamine before earnestly starting her fight to become sober.

“She got her life back, and so can everyone else. This is a disease that is treatable,” said Dettman.

Like many users, Galbraith’s addiction started with a prescription drug: OxyContin.

“No one wakes up when they’re 12 and says ‘I want to be a heroin addict because it’s such a glamorous life.’ The fact is over 80 percent of heroin users started with prescription drugs,” said Dettman.

Dettman’s prescription to fight the epidemic is education.

“I always say I’m very lucky as a physician to treat a disease that is largely preventable simply by education,” she told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday morning.

The doctor says that education starts with the medical industry, which needs to learn careful opioid prescribing habits and to refer patients to pain management specialists earlier, so they can use non-narcotic means to treat pain.

She said the opiate overdose reversal drug Nalaxone also needs to be more readily available so more lives can be saved.

“Lastly we need to educate the public about saying, ‘Doc, do you think maybe Motrin would work? Do I have to have an addictive drug?’”

Her advice to families dealing with an addict: Do your best to destigmatize the disease.

“Unfortunately it’s a disease that carries with it unsavory behaviors – lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating. I maintain that if you take the substances away, you have some of the finest people in the world, as evidenced by Kelly.”

“Love your family member. Meet them where they’re at. Help them get connected to resources. This is a treatable disease,” she added.

Dettman encourages anyone dealing with addiction to contact her at 616.350.3230.