After son's overdose death, VCU surgeon teaches about risk of over-prescribing

After son's overdose death, VCU surgeon teaches about risk of over-prescribing

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's been almost three years, but Omar Abubaker still vividly remembers his last conversation with his son, Adam.

"We had a two-hour conversation. I mean literally a heart-to-heart. We talked about all kinds of things," said Abubaker. "In fact, I suggested that we go out, we travel together for the one-year anniversary. Just me and him, and he said, 'One day at a time, Dad.' "

The next day Adam overdosed on heroin. He died a week later.

"It's very difficult to describe when you get this phone call. Part of you is dead," said Abubaker.

It had only been a year prior that Abubaker learned his 21 year-old-son, a former volunteer firefighter, with dreams of being an EMT, was addicted to heroin.

That pain was compounded by the fact that Abubaker is a surgeon. He's been practicing for more than 25 years.

"I'm a doctor. I know better. How could I allow my son to fall into addiction before my eyes?" said Dr. Abubaker.

After his son's death, Dr. Abubaker enrolled in a graduate class with VCU to learn more about addiction.  When he discovered four out of five heroin addictions start with prescription medications, it made him re-evaluate how he writes scripts. He believes Adam's addiction started that very way after a shoulder surgery.

"I get up in the middle of the night, and I worry how many of those prescriptions may end up in the wrong hands," said Dr. Abubaker. "How many of them in the cabinet that the grandchild found, or the child found and used it and got addicted?"

As a VCU professor, Abubaker is now focused on educating future generations of doctors about the risk of over-prescribing.

It's also why he's taking part in a summit next month called "Revive RVA: Regional Solutions to the Opioid Crisis." It's a combined effort from Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover to bring together doctors, first responders, professors and even addicts themselves to find solutions to Virginia's opioid problem.

"In my practice, I don't write for more than eight tablets for a prescription for the lowest possible narcotic and rarely have to renew it, and it's working," said Dr. Abubaker.

Dr. Abubaker says that will be he son's legacy, so no other families have to experience the heartbreak of a heroin addiction.

"Everywhere we have to teach about it just like we teach about diabetes, we have to teach about addictions, and if we do that I have faith we'll take care of it," said Dr. Abubaker.

Dr. Abubaker is the keynote speaker for the Revive RVA summit on Oct. 26. The day-long conference will feature discussions and panels and culminate with training on how to administer Narcan.

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