According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths in the United States increased for the 11th consecutive year in 2010 with nearly 60 percent of the deaths involving prescription medicine. In response to these findings, Dr. Michael Lowenstein, medical director for the WAISMANN METHOD ® (W Method) opiate treatment, is urging national policymakers to enact tighter restrictions on prescription drugs containing opiates, like hydrocodone, oxycodone and methadone.
“The dangerous trend of using and abusing pharmaceutical drugs has already reached epidemic levels, and it’s time to take immediate and serious action to enforce strict regulations on these drugs nationwide,” said Dr. Lowenstein. “While policies and legislation have been created to help protect patients from these dangerous drugs, it’s clear that not enough is being done, as more than half of the overdose deaths in the U.S. involve or are caused by prescription medications. It’s imperative that policymakers support tighter restrictions and enforcement of regulations on these drugs, while ensuring that patients have access to the medications they need, so we can hopefully start curbing this alarming trend.”
According to the CDC, 38,329 people died from drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2010, which was an increase from the 37,005 deaths in 2009. 22,134 of the drug overdose deaths in 2010 involved pharmaceutical drugs, and prescription opiates were involved in three out of four of those deaths. The CDC commented on these findings, stating that it is “confirming the predominant role opioid analgesics play in drug overdose deaths.”
In reaction to these statistics, Dr. Lowenstein is advocating for the creation of strict nationwide regulations and enforcement for prescription painkillers, similar to those that have been implemented in New York City and California. The New York City policy places limits on prescription painkillers by restricting most public hospital patients from receiving more than three days’ worth of the medications. New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has taken additional steps to protect patients by placing limits on opiate prescription refills and creating legislation to provide proper education to patients and improve labeling, packaging, and storage of these drugs. In California, the states’ Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) has been effectively managing an online database called Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES). The CURES system allows doctors and pharmacies to have access to their patient’s history of prescribed controlled substances to help prevent prescription drug abuse.
“New York City and California are setting fantastic examples for the rest of the nation when it comes to effective legislation and enforcement that can help decrease abuse of prescription painkillers by empowering both physicians and patients,” continued Dr. Lowenstein. “It’s my sincere hope that federal lawmakers will follow suit, and help put a stop to the needless and harmful cycle of opiate misuse that has become rampant from coast-to-coast.”