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It’s better being safe than sorry

It cannot be said that the arrests this week of three local physicians, among seven in West Virginia and Ohio accused of drug offenses, came as a shock. We in this area have become well aware of the roles played by health care professionals in the drug abuse epidemic.

But the arrests no doubt were jarring to hundreds of local residents who relied on the physicians for health care. Out of necessity, people rely on doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others in health care. We trust them because we must.

Noting that the three local doctors who were arrested are innocent until proven guilty is more than a formality. Just a few months ago, two Weirton physicians accused by federal authorities of illegally distributing Suboxone were acquitted of the charges.

Still, we know some health care professionals abuse the privilege they have of prescribing certain controlled substances. The vast majority are conscientious, law-abiding professionals upon whom we can rely with our lives — as we sometimes do.

What about the few bad apples, however?

Tuesday’s arrests were a reminder to both patients and members of their families that we, too, bear responsibility for our health. We ask questions, sometimes get second opinions on many types of treatment. We need to remember that such caution should be exercised in regard to pain relief, too.

Opioid drugs can be very effective at curtailing pain — but the side-effects can include addiction.

For a few years, the makers of opioid pain pills assured everyone there was little or no risk of addiction. We know differently now.

So if you are prescribed a potentially addictive drug, whatever the reason, proceed with caution. If you think a second opinion is merited, get it. If you begin to feel as if you are growing dependent on a drug, do something.

If you are the family member of someone you worry may be suffering ill effects from a drug that should be helping, do something, too.

We can rely on the vast majority of health care professionals to do the smart, right thing.

When physicians, nurses, etc., are arrested for abusing the trust we place in them, however, we are reminded that the old saying about it being better to be safe than sorry is good advice.

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