Are Our Doctors Partially Responsible For the Opiate Epidemic?

A common misconception among people who don’t understand the opiate addiction epidemic gripping our nation is the belief that people who abuse prescription opiates obtain them from friends or relatives, or even from drug dealers. The truth is, many opiate addicts who end up needing outpatient detox first started getting the drugs from their doctor. In fact, a new report from the CDC places a significant portion of the blame for opiate addiction squarely on the shoulders of the doctors who prescribe these drugs to their patients.

Opiate Addicts Get Drugs from Their Doctors

According to a CDC data analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine (JAMA Internal Medicine), people who are most in need of outpatient detox treatment – those who abuse opiates 200 or more days a year – receive their drugs via a doctor’s prescription at least 27 percent of the time. They obtain drugs from friends or relatives for free 26 percent of the time, and buy them from relatives or friends 23 percent of the time. People who have greatest need for outpatient detox are four times more likely than the average opiate user to buy these drugs from a strange drug dealer, which they do about 15 percent of the time.

The CDC based this analysis on data collected between 2008 and 2011. Published in the same issue of JAMA Internal Medicine was an investigation of the epidemic of opiate overdose deaths occurring in Tennessee, conducted by Vanderbilt University, the Tennessee Department of Health and the CDC. The researchers found that, each year between 2007 and 2011, one-third of the population of Tennessee filled a prescription for opiate drugs; the prescribing rate for these dangerously addictive drugs increased 32 percent during that time period. Despite attempts to curb the prescription drug epidemic, prescription opiate abuse is on the rise in that state.

Federal and State Lawmakers, Drug Manufacturers Need to Work Together

Authorities have taken steps to stem the tide of prescription opiate abuse, addiction and overdose, but these reports indicate that their efforts are insufficient. Many addicts don’t have access to the outpatient detox they need to get back to living normal lives. The federal government is tracking drug overdose trends in order to gain a better understanding of this public health threat, and drug manufacturers are working on developing abuse-resistant opiate drugs, as well as drugs that can more effectively treat overdose and manage withdrawal symptoms during outpatient detox.

Both the public and health care providers need to be educated about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. The majority of people still assume that prescription painkillers are safe because they come from a pharmacy. The federal government now requires manufacturers of long-acting and extended-release opiate painkillers to provide educational programs and materials for health care providers, so they can choose to administer these drugs only to low-risk patients who are unlikely to need outpatient detox as a result of using these drugs. Educational programs will also help health care providers educate their patients so they can safely use these drugs and will refrain from sharing them with loved ones or friends. Health care providers also need to know how to monitor their patients while they are taking these drugs.

State lawmakers are implementing and enhancing prescription drug monitoring programs that help prescribers and authorities keep track of opiate prescriptions and identify abusers. Many states are also establishing public insurance, state health programs and workers’ compensation programs that can help opiate abusers get access to outpatient detox when they need it. Indeed, increasing access to treatment for opiate addiction can save the lives of abusers and addicts in many states.

States also need to evaluate and implement laws that reduce prescription opiate abuse and protect residents from unscrupulous pain clinics. State licensing boards must be encouraged to take disciplinary action against doctors who prescribe these drugs to their patients inappropriately, without taking the proper care to monitor patients for signs of abuse or high overdose risk.

Outpatient Detox Can Help Opiate Addicts

If you or someone you love needs treatment for opiate addiction, outpatient detox can control your withdrawal symptoms and help you get back to your normal life. You’ll feel like your old self again right away.

Call My Drug Detox today at 888-376-2011 to learn more.

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