Expert panel discusses Treasure Valley's opioid epidemic

Posted at 5:21 PM, Feb 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-21 19:21:25-05

The opioid epidemic is quickly becoming Idaho’s largest health crisis. On Wednesday, Feb. 21, a panel of experts who have vowed to fight the epidemic shared insight on what the community can do to combat the problem.

Leaders in the fight against prescription drug abuse say talking about the issue is the first step to conquering it.

Dr. Eric Nelson, oral surgeon and panelist for the City Club of Boise’s opioid forum, says due to the nature of his job, his office can give out 20 to 30 prescriptions every day.

“Doctors are caught between trying to be as caring and concerned as they possibly can,” Nelson said. “Controlling pain is one of the things we do best, and then trying to curb the appetite once it starts.”

Medical professionals say over-prescribing pain killers is contributing to the opioid epidemic.

“Being very careful of those prescriptions, not giving too many pills to someone for pain,” said Dr. Ron Larsen, Medical Director of Optum Idaho. “These are effective medicines and people use them, but not giving out too many pills…keeping track of them, not leaving extra ones in your medicine cabinet.”

It’s an issue prescribers are learning to deal with — distinguishing between legitimate pain relief and prescription drug abuse.

“With this crisis, it’s become more real for us,” Nelson said. “So, we’ve become more apparent about how our actions can affect the lives of our patients.” 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) there is a death from an opioid overdose every 16 minutes in the U.S. 

If you missed the panel discussion, it will be available to view online at