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When Cracking Down On Opioids Means Tougher Access For Sickle Cell Patients

Many people with sickle cell disease will die prematurely, but treatment is improving. Doctors believe that the pain of a sickle cell crisis comes from the patient’s crescent-shaped red blood cells building up in the veins and cutting off oxygen to tissue and bones. If it persists, the lack of oxygen can damage vital organs. During a crisis, powerful painkillers are often the only relief.

But opioid-based medications are also highly addictive and have come under increased scrutiny as the rate of overdoses rises among the general public. In the emergency room, doctors frequently worry that the person in front of them is one of the estimated 1.9 million Americans who are addicted to pain pills, or one of the 19,000 or so who will die each year from an overdose, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.