Opioid addiction and overdose are prominent public health issues in the United States, causing an increase in overdose death rate. Opioids are a group of compounds that activate the brain's opioid receptors which influence perceptions of pain and euphoria. The problem of prescription drug abuse and overdose is multi-faceted due to the presence of multiple drivers associated with increased use. In its more specific sense, an opioid addiction involves consumption of any form of recreational or therapeutic drug outside of a physician's supervision.
With strong painkillers such as fentanyl, oxycodone, morphine and hydromorphone being widely used, scientists, public health officials and general public are focusing more on the issue of opioid use in a manner not sanctioned by a doctor. As a matter of fact, Americans abuse opioid medications more often than they abuse any other type of prescription medication. This, in turn, increases the risk of opioid addiction and fatal or non-fatal opioid overdose.
Who is at risk?
In a Stanford University study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2015, the researchers analyzed data for all Schedule II opioids such as hydrocodone and codeine, covering 381,575 prescribers and 56.5 million claims for prescriptions in 2013.
The study suggested that the top 10 percent of opioid prescribers contributed to 57 percent of opioid prescriptions, which stands similar to the Medicare pattern for all drugs of the top 10 percent accounting for 63 percent of prescriptions. The data identified each drug prescribed, the total number of claims and total costs, representing 1,188,393,892 claims for more than $ 80 billion. Interestingly, in 2013, the majority of Schedule II opioid drugs were prescribed by 15.3 million family practice doctors, 12.8 million internal medicine doctors, 4.1 million nurse practitioners and 3.1 million physician assistants.
The study proves that many kinds of prescribers and specialties are involved in Medicare opioid prescriptions, which is in contradiction with the California Worker's Compensation data, which says that only a small proportion of prescribers account for a significant large percentage of opioid prescription.
"These findings indicate law enforcement efforts to shut down pill mill prescribers are insufficient to address the broad overprescribing of opioids," said Dr. Jonathan Chen, a professor at Stanford, in a news release. "Efforts to curtail national opioid overprescribing must address a broad swath of prescribers to be effective," he added.
Making help available
People can be made aware of the risks of prescription drug abuse by educating the healthcare givers about it. Prescription drug addiction treatment help should come from doctors who have adequate training in both pain management and substance abuse. Healthcare providers need to identify patients who stand a greater risk of abuse and also ensure that those treated with opioid receive only the required quantity of medication.
Any gap in their knowledge could be detrimental, and may lead to abuse of prescription drugs. The US Department of Health and Human Services members prescribe drug abuse as a major health concern in the country. To address the issue, there has to be a collective effort from public healthcare providers at the federal, state and local level.
If you or your loved one is grappling with the prescription drug problem, you may seek help of a good prescription drug rehab .