Prescription drug abuse rates are rapidly increasing in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the U.S. makes up only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it is responsible for the consumption of 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs. Abuse of prescription drugs occurs who the drug is taken in a manner other than its intended purpose such as to get high.
Prescription drug abuse can take over someone's life if help isn't found. It doesn’t have to be this way though. For those who are struggling with prescription drug abuse and addiction, help is only a phone call away.
Can a single prescription lead to opioid addiction? Maybe yes, as per findings of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on February 16, 2017, which show that a single prescription by some emergency room (ER) doctors may lead to long-term opioid addiction. The study has found wide-ranging disparities in the prescription patterns of doctors from the same emergency departments. Some doctors are inclined to prescribe more painkillers, sometimes three times higher than other doctors in the ER, for patients with similar complaints.
Prescriptions of 14,000 doctors were examined and prescribing practices of doctors within the same emergency department were compared. Data of over 375,000 Medicare patients who visited ERs between 2008 and 2011 was analyzed. The study patients did not have a painkiller prescription during the past six months before visiting the ER.
Findings of the study suggest that one in every 48 individuals who gets a new opioid prescription in the ER will become a chronic painkiller user. The researchers also found that patients who were frequently prescribed opiates had 30 percent higher chances of becoming long-term opioid users within 12 months of their ER visit.
The study shows that only two percent of individuals who receive new opioid prescriptions become chronic users. However, an increasing number of painkiller prescriptions by doctors results in a higher likelihood of patients developing opioid use disorders (OUD). A 2014 study provides evidence that patients with chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP) who were given opioids had significantly higher rates of OUDs than those who were not prescribed opioids.
Between 1991 and 2013, the number of prescriptions for opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone nearly tripled, from around 76 million in 1991 to almost 207 million in 2013. The United States was found to be the biggest consumer of opioids globally, accounting for nearly 100 percent of the global consumption for hydrocodone and 81 percent for oxycodone. Past research also shows that the rate of opioid prescriptions is the highest for specialists in pain medicines, surgery and physical medicine/rehabilitation.
ER doctors mostly take care of emergencies and are often short of time. They are concerned with solving an immediate problem, which many times involves prescribing painkillers. ER doctors usually do not provide continuous care or offer alternative non-drug treatment options for pain. Emergency departments, accordingly, are counted among the top prescribers of painkillers across the U.S. Moreover, opioids prescribed by ER doctors may continue to be given by non-ER physicians during follow-up treatment.
In 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) tightened the rules for prescribing hydrocodone in combination with other analgesics such as acetaminophen. In the first year, there was a 22 percent reduction in dispensed hydrocodone combination prescriptions and a 16 percent reduction in dispensed hydrocodone combination tablets. Refills made up over 73 percent of the reductions.
Emergency departments are trying to cut down their opioid prescriptions and use the drugs as a last-resort measure, to be given only in cases of acute pain. Medical schools are making students aware of the dangers of prescribing opioids. These and other measures are not entirely sufficient to tackle the opioid epidemic. Current efforts to reduce OUDs focus on physician prescription rates and not on patients. More research is needed to investigate the type of patients who should be treated with opioids, duration of treatment and appropriate dosage. Structural changes are needed in ERs, which must also include counseling patients on non-drug pain treatment options.
If you or a loved one is struggling with prescription drug abuse, it is important to seek help. Contact the Colorado Prescription Abuse Helpline that will connect you to one of the best prescription drug abuse treatment centers in Colorado providing holistic recovery options. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-922-5915 or chat online with our representatives to know more about prescription abuse rehab in Colorado.