Opiates or Opioids as they are more commonly known are and important prescription medication for any pain management doctor. However, in the last 10 years or so, they have become an abused, misused and overused medication that has sadly, been related to addiction and even death.
There Are Several Questions
When this epidemic is discussed among those in the medical industry, in particular, the pain management area, there are two questions that come to the surface: How is this happening? Who is letting it happen? What are can be done about it?
The biggest players in this epidemic are doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. So what responsibility should a pain management doctor take toward curbing and correcting this epidemic? What accountability should the pharmaceutical companies have? If there are any solutions, what are the best ones?
The CDC has recently issued the first set of guidelines for prescribing opioids. This guide is focused toward primary care physicians and has become the national standards for prescribing these painkillers. And while it is too late for millions, it is a positive step taken in the right direction.
What Are Opiates?
Derived from morphine, found as far back as the 3rd century B.C., they are a powerful painkiller. Common names for this drug are hydrocodone and oxycodone. It is believed that the Sumerians nurtured poppies and removed opium out of the seed capsules.
Opiates not only provide relief from pain, the sole intention of any pain management doctor, but they produce euphoria as well. It is that euphoric feeling that leads to abuse of the drug. Opioids are expensive and harder to acquire than the euphoric drug, heroin.
After years of using opioids, even months, a user will develop a tolerance to them. As such, they need a higher dosage in order to get the same level of relief. If their pain management doctor doesn’t approve a prescription for a higher dosage, they will resort to heroin. In fact, it is believed that 4 out of 5 opioid users have become heroin users.
The number of deaths from heroin overdose almost quadrupled between 2000 and 2013 in America. And when it comes to death from injury, opioids are the most common cause in this country.
Over 15,000 people die each year according to the CDC due to opioid medication overdoses. It is estimated that there are over 800 recreational users for each person that dies with over 30 ER visits due to opioids that result in 10 hospital admissions.
What Can Be Done?
One of the first steps is for every pain management doctor and other professions in the industry to question their patients thoroughly about any past or current alcohol or drug use. They should also check any prescription drug monitoring program that is available to them.
And the biggest step of all is to prescribe the lowest effective dose of any opioid to begin with and for only the amount that will most likely be needed. If a patient is complaining of pain after the prescription is finished, then a different type of pain management may be needed.
Every pain management doctor needs to be educated on opioids so that they can be better able to monitor their patient’s safety and recommend alternatives for pain management. The training of physicians should include the importance of developing a treatment plan in writing and create a medication agreement that the patient and them both sign, designating one physician as the sole prescribing doctor for pain medication.