Potent opioid painkiller prescriptions has been a growing concern over the past decade. According to statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate each American citizen every four hours for an entire month. Despite these alarming figures and worry about the addictive nature of these painkillers, doctors continue to write prescriptions for patients who need pain relief.
Now, a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that prescription of powerful opioids may still be on the rise.
Use of Potent Opioid Painkillers Grows Despite Concerns about Rising Opioid Dependence
The National Center for Health Statistics compiled data from the annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to identify trends in physician prescriptions for opioid painkillers. The study compared rates of patients who had been prescribed an opioid analgesic stronger than morphine those who had been prescribed painkillers less strong than morphine. According to the results, the percentage of people who used more potent painkillers rose from 17% to 37% from 1999 to 2011-2012. At the same time, only 20% of respondents in 2011-2012 used a painkiller weaker than morphine, compared to 42.4% in 1999.
Taken together, these results suggest that physicians continue to prescribe stronger and stronger opioid painkillers. According to Dr. Leonard J. Paulozzi, MD, MPH, who is a medical epidemiologist at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, this rise in use of potent painkillers may be responsible for the increase in overdose-related deaths that has been observed over the past decade.
In general, rates of prescriptions for opioid analgesics remain relatively high in the United States. Approximately 7% of adults say that they have used prescription painkillers in the past month. This figure jumps in older adults, who are more likely to have chronic pain and other medical conditions that require pain management.
Need for Prevention of Opioid Dependence and Better Access to Treatment
Unfortunately, the new study indicates that despite concern from laypeople and policymakers about the toll of prescription drug dependence, physicians may not be changing their prescribing practices. Part of the problem may be the limited amount of time doctors have with their patients. It is faster and easier to write a prescription for painkillers than to discuss alternative therapies or holistic pain management practices. Additionally, knowledge about the effectiveness and empirical support for these alternative pain management techniques remains relatively low.
With more and more potent painkillers being prescribed to patients, risk of opioid dependence remains high. Stronger painkillers have a higher addictive potential, and many people who begin taking prescription analgesics to manage chronic pain soon find that they cannot control their use.
At the Waismann Method center, we believe the solution to prescription drug dependence is twofold: there must be an emphasis on prevention as well as improved access to humane and effective treatments.
Prevention may include changing physician prescribing practices, raising awareness about alternative pain management techniques, and altering policies about prescription drug monitoring programs. Additionally, we need better access to and awareness of effective treatments for opioid dependence. For example, the Waismann Method medical opiate detox ensures that each patient receives a specially customized treatment plan. This is followed by state-of-the-art care at the Domus Retreat, our exclusive aftercare center. Together, these prevention and treatment measures may help combat the nation’s growing prescription drug problem.
Popping Pills: Prescription Drug Abuse in America. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved on June 30, 2015