Opioid Use Disorder and OverprescribingJuly 30, 2020
Last week, we shared with you that opioid overdoses could increase 30 to 40 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic per Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). It was a reminder that we have lived amid an addiction epidemic for the last 20 years. Men and women trapped in the cycle of opioid use disorder are at significant risk.
Opioid use disorder (OUD) dominated the headlines before the coronavirus due to rampant overdose deaths. We mustn’t lose sight of the issue in the fog of the new public health crisis. What’s more, individuals using opioids could be more susceptible to COVID-19 because of weakened immune systems and respiratory problems.
Millions of Americans have an OUD: a condition typified by dependence interfering with daily life. Effective treatments are available for the disorder, but many are unable to access evidence-based therapies in specific parts of the country. Moreover, doctors are often ill-equipped to spot signs of addiction.
Physicians miss the telltale indications of dependence, and they also continue to prescribe narcotics at alarming rates. Some M.D.s have received proper training; however, the vast majority are not versed in the science of addiction. After two decades, one might expect that the medical community has a better handle on the crisis. Sadly, the scourge continues; rampant overprescribing fuels the addiction epidemic fire.
80 Percent of the World’s Prescription Opioids
Despite the hundreds of thousands of lives lost, the United States still consumes the majority of prescription painkillers. The American population accounts for about five percent of the global population, but 80% of the world’s prescription opioids are prescribed to Americans, NPR reports. Our physicians prescribe enough opioid prescriptions each year for half of all America.
“It’s not just a handful of doctors doing it. We kind of all are. It’s become part of our culture that this is normal,” said Dr. Jonathan Chen, a physician and researcher at Stanford University Medical Center.
More than 1 in 5 Americans had an opioid prescription filled in 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As we reported last week, overdoses climbed to record high levels in 2019, and overdoses have increased an average of 13 percent so far this year; the correlation between prescribing and overdose cannot be denied.
Prescription opioids are not involved in every overdose death. When doctors discover their patient has a problem, they often cut off the supply. Those who do not receive intervention are prone to turn to the streets to avoid withdrawal. Few doctors have the authority to prescribe opioid detoxification medications like Suboxone.
“There was a study of people who go to the hospital with a twisted ankle,” said Keith Humphreys, who teaches about opioid prescribing at Stanford University. “One in eight of them is coming out with opioids. That’s crazy.”
The NPR analysis of available research on prescribing practices indicates as many as 70% of painkillers are never used for their prescribed purpose.
Opioid Use Disorder Intervention
If your loved one misuses prescription opioids or has supplanted them with heroin or black-market Fentanyl, please contact Whitman Recovery Service. Our team can help you plan an intervention. We have an excellent success rate in bringing about recovery for thousands of families.