More people dying from opioid overdoses than at peak of HIV epidemic, medical expert says

Prescription painkillers lead to thousands of deaths in US every year

By Bill Barajas - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - The opioid crisis is one of the topics that was discussed at the Texas Lyceum Conference in San Antonio on Friday.

Prescription painkillers lead to thousands of deaths across the country each and every year. 

"We have a huge opioid crisis down here in the state of Texas. More people are dying from opioid overdose than at the peak of the HIV epidemic," said Esteban Lopez, chief medical officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. 

Lopez said it's a problem that can be found at every level of our society.

"It's very complicated in terms as far as how we got to this point. Some blame the pharmaceutical companies. Some blame the federal government," Lopez said.

Lopez said he sees patients dealing with opioid overdose or the effects of opioids on every shift. One of the drugs commonly used is fentanyl.

"Fentanyl with heroin is a combination that we're seeing more and more. It's a dangerous combination. Fentanyl is cheap to make and it enhances the effects of heroin," Lopez said.

Lopez believes combating the opioid crisis comes down to four things.

"Making sure that naloxone, which is a reversal agent, is available; educating the community, such as what we're doing right now; educating providers, doctors and hospitals about the issue; and finding good treatment alternatives when people are addicted to opioids," Lopez said.

Despite the ongoing crisis, Lopez believes education and the federal government's involvement have helped put society on the right track in the battle against opioid addiction.

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