Local therapist addresses opioid addiction in Cayman

Therapist Sutton Burke speaks at the Caribbean Association of Pharmists, telling conference attendees they need to be more proactive in addressing opioid addiction. - Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

Psychotherapist Sutton Burke told a hotel conference room filled with pharmacists that thorough screening of patients and a centralized computer system for tracking drug prescriptions are critical tools in keeping an opioid addiction problem from coming to Cayman and the rest of the Caribbean.

Ms. Burke, a counselor with Infinite Mindcare in Cayman, said there is little evidence that the islands are seeing that would point to the kind of epidemic that has been experienced in the United States in recent years, but the potential is there.

On Friday, Ms. Burke addressed the Caribbean Association of Pharmacists as part of its weeklong convention at the Marriott Beach Resort.

“This is happening and this is real,” Ms. Burke said. “This is medication you may have in your medicine cabinet.”

Nearly 50,000 opioid-related deaths were reported in the United States in 2017, a doubling of the number seen just five years earlier. Figures provided during Ms. Burke’s talk indicated that 2.1 million Americans have an opioid abuse problem. Worldwide, that figure is estimated between 26.4 million and 36 million.

Ms. Burke urged the group to take action.

“There’s a lot you can do to help, to keep this from coming here or from getting worse,” she said.

In her own practice, she said, she has seen a slight increase in cases of opioid addiction. No figures for Cayman were immediately available and recently released data on causes of death locally did not break out a category for drug overdose.

Very often, opioid addiction begins with the legitimate use of drugs such as Vicodin or oxycodone for pain relief. Some people can develop dependency on such drugs and can then begin to overuse them, resulting in addiction. The proliferation of such medications has also resulted in easier access for recreational use of such drugs.

Those with an abuse problem will often seek to procure more medication than they might otherwise be prescribed. Ms. Burke said this can lead to patients attempting to refill prescriptions earlier than would be warranted and even engaging in doctor and pharmacy shopping. She said there are a small number of doctors in the Cayman Islands known for prescribing medication on a patient’s request.

Ms. Burke encouraged the group to engage in a call to action for a government-financed shared prescription database.

“It’s happening all over the world,” she said, “and it’s very affordable.”

Pharmacists should also begin screening every patient when it comes to opioid medications.

“The pharmacist may be the first to suspect opioid abuse,” Ms. Burke said. “This is all about communication with your patients.”

Acknowledging that the subject is an uncomfortable one to address, she provided some strategies for approaching the process.

“We need you to believe in yourself and what you’re doing,” she told the group. “Believe in the idea that this is for therapeutic purposes.”

She said more discussion among professionals is also important and suggested making opioid use a mandatory topic in future conferences.

“Make sure you’re educating every patient,” she said. “You could be saving a life.”

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  1. Very interesting.
    Blame the victim. Turn pharmacists into watch dogs.
    Opioid addiction begins with doctor’s prescription who doesn’t understand the risks and has no idea about non-opiate painkillers. CBD oil both internally and externally, low dosage naltrexone, acupuncture are all very effective for pain management. Ask your doctor, pun intended).

  2. Ask your doctor and see his eyes roll.
    So this is what your doctor won’t tell you:
    CBD oil is now freely sold in the USA. Expensive, but very effective for many health issues including pain.
    You need a prescription for LDN and insurance doesn’t pay for it, but it is affordable. Chances are your need to see an integrative/functional medicine doctor to get a prescription and a compound pharmacy to prepare it. Watch for additives. Skip’s pharmacy in FL would mail it. But there is absolutely no reasons for pharmacies in Cayman not to prepare it.
    Lastly, medical marijuana products are legal in Cayman.

  3. “Make sure you’re educating every patient,” she said. “You could be saving a life.”
    A got really emotional after reading this sentence.

    Pain medication (not opioids) nearly killed my brother after he injured his back. NO ONE had warned him about “Steroids Cause Psychosis”, in his case suicidal ideation. Just one dose of prednisone.

    No doctors warn you prescribing “black box” antibiotics (fluoroquinolones) for minor infections about sudden, serious, and potentially permanent nerve damage. 91 percent of patients taking “the dangerous six” had side neurological effects.

    No doctors warn you about devastating Benzo withdrawals, brushing off all your symptoms to anxiety and prescribing benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepine suicides are not normally discussed in the media accounts. There are no benzodiazepines awareness Days.

    “This is happening and this is real”.

    DOCTORS, EDUCATE YOURSELF, you could save a life! Pharmacists just dispense medications to patients in accordance with doctor’s orders.

    • Hi L. Bell, Thank you for your comments. I am sorry to hear about your brother. I am sure you could acknowledge the Compass could not write about every single thing I discussed during my talk. If you have Dropbox and provide me with your email address I am happy to share the full video of it with you. To be clear, I have done a few talks in Cayman to doctors about the Opiate Epidemic and it has been at those talks that multiple pharmacists and pharmacy staff asking me to discuss this publicly and provide them with what to do when they are seeing the problems in the pharmacy. This talk was specifically on Opiates, and I gave a disclaimer in the beginning why I chose Opiates and not Benzos or Stimulants, or any other substances… I would have loved to discuss those things as well, but I would have been on stage all day which wouldnt be possible. You are quite accurate in your statement that doctors prescribing the meds dont necessarily have the training and understanding of the pain meds… this is why I made a call to action for there to be mandatory CME’s on the topic of substance abuse, opiates, etc for all medical staff. Another call to action for Pharmacists was to NOT assume everyone is reading the label, and explain the medications to every client. So much was discussed that I bet you could appreciate based on your concerns in the comments. I would be happy to talk more with you: [email protected]