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Straight Talk
A weekly update from management on the issues that matter most.

Jan 25, 2018
Today in America, more people will die of drug overdoses than auto accidents. Collier County is not immune, having reported over 60 drug-related deaths in 2016 and a potential increase predicted for 2017 with 34 confirmed cases and 51 pending testing, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office for Collier County.

At NCH, we treated 1,621 patients in our emergency rooms last year for complications of drug and alcohol addiction, with over half admitted for further treatment.  Many more patients have related medical complications of addiction such as infections of heart valves, abscesses, and additional maladies requiring prolonged care.  Other emergency rooms and hospitals in our region are proportionally experiencing the same.  Law enforcement and our legal system are also overwhelmed by the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse.  Mental health disorders already affect at least 25% of our population and are exacerbated by substance abuse.      


The Opioid-Abuse Epidemic has gained enormous visibility, as noted in a recent New England Journal of Medicine perspective.  More than 11 million Americans or 3.4% of our population misused prescription opioids in 2016.  Add illicit drug use of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, and other newer synthetics, and the sad result is a quadrupling of drug overdose deaths since 1999.  


Thirty-eight percent of Americans believe drug addiction is a serious problem.  The public is almost equally split as to who is to blame—people who sell prescription painkillers and addictive drugs illegally or professionals who prescribe painkillers inappropriately.  The majority of the public believes that addicts have a medical illness (53%) rather than a personal weakness (36%).     


The desire for opioid-induced euphoria has been part of society for centuries, dating back to around 3,400 B.C. when ancient Sumerians called opium poppies “the joy plant,” according to Becker’s Hospital Review


When used appropriately, short-term, with the lowest effective dose, pain killers are efficacious.  Addiction takes hold after people’s neurons adapt to opioids.  When addictive medications are withdrawn, an addict’s brain feels anxiety and dysphoria—a state of unease and generalized dissatisfaction with life.


While Southwest Florida is the healthiest and happiest community in the nation with the longest life expectancy, we too have concerns and will continue to be proactive.  Drug Free Collier is sponsoring Dr. Andrew Kolodny, MD, Co-Director, Opioid Policy Research Collaborative Institute for Behavioral Health, Schneider Institutes for Health Policy, Heller School for Social Policy & Management, Brandeis University, who will bring knowledge and motivation to Southwest Florida on February 1st from 5:30 to 7:30 PM for healthcare professionals in the Telford Auditorium on the NCH Baker Campus and Friday, February 2nd from 9 AM to noon for allied health professionals at the Hilton Hotel.   


Helping everyone with the stressful, added problem of addiction is noble work that will aid all concerned—patient, family, health professional, and community—to live longer, happier, and healthier lives.   


P.S.  DO YOU HAVE A COLLEAGUE OR FRIEND WHO WOULD BE INTERESTED IN UPDATES?  Please enter their email address at, and we will add them to our complimentary mailing list.

Allen S. Weiss, MD

President and CEO

You may contact Dr. Allen Weiss and The NCH Healthcare System by clicking here.