Doctors Weigh in on Prescription Drug Addiction

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, president of Physicians for Responsible Prescribing, made the point in a recent New York Times article that opioid medications are rarely the answer. With the prescription drug epidemic being what it is, many people are calling for restrictions on the use of these highly addictive prescription drugs. However, the companies that manufacture opioids sponsor pain advocacy groups that promote the idea that opioids are still difficult to access for many individuals in extreme chronic pain.

Kolodny claims that the misinformation provided to physicians has caused the current, rapidly escalating prescription drug problem. He claims that physicians were led to believe that fears of potential addiction to opioid painkillers were unfounded and would only lead to unnecessary suffering.

There are three general reasons opioids are used:

  • Short-term use for acute pain
  • Long-term use for chronic pain
  • Palliative care for end-of-life patients

There is no controversy over using opioids for acute pain or palliative care; however, it is in the treatment of chronic pain that opioids are often utilized inappropriately. Doctors need more training and different options for their patients who fall into this category. Often long-term use of opioids leaves pain patients still struggling with pain, but with the added complication of addiction and negative health side effects caused by the medication.

Doctors Need More Education on the Effects of Opioid Pain Medications

Currently, physicians are not adequately prepared to consistently prescribe opioids safely to their patients. Kevin A. Sabet, an assistant professor at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine, Division of Addiction Studies, believes that doctors need additional training in the following areas:

  • Mandatory education on appropriate guidelines for opioid prescription
  • Better training on opioid chemistry as some are used interchangeably with deadly consequences
  • Teaching by medical schools on the science of addiction, especially in relationship to prescription medications

Steps Many Doctors Agree Need to Be Taken for Opiate Drug Safety

Physicians need more than just additional training in the area of opiate addiction to ensure greater protection for patients’ mental and physical health. The government, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and community-based organizations all need to come together and take action. They should:

  • Pass laws requiring doctors to use their state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), as well as establish a national database that functions across state lines.
  • Increase funding for community-based drug prevention and treatment.
  • Stop Medicare fraud that creates an income stream for prescription drug addicts.
  • Establish convenient methods for Americans to safely dispose of their unused prescriptions.
  • Pharmaceutical companies need to consistently formulate drugs so they are not able to be abused.

Are there any additional actions being taken in your community to help curb prescription drug abuse? Or can you think of any other ideas that may help the problem? Let us know your thoughts and ideas below.