“More cautious prescribing for acute pain will help prevent people from becoming opioid-addicted. Efforts to get the doses down will save lives.”
~ Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Co-Director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University and Founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing
Guided by the American Medical Association, federal recommendations, and state laws, doctors are starting to prescribe fewer pain pills. Nearly two dozen states have enacted limits on opioid prescriptions, including:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
For example, Maine’s original law limited patients to no more than the equivalent of 100 morphine-equivalent mg per day—only about 2 30mg OxyContin tablets.
In addition, every state has some type of Prescription Monitoring Program that helps track controlled and abusable medications. A 2017 study determined that “US states that have more robust prescription drug monitoring programs have fewer prescription opioid overdose deaths than states with weaker PMPs.”
Furthermore, in September 2017, 37 State Attorneys General were included in a letter sent to America’s Health Insurance Plans. The letter urged insurance companies to “encourage healthcare providers to prioritize non-opioid pain management options over opioid prescriptions for the treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain.”
What about Current Opioid Addicts?
Although prescribing fewer painkillers will obviously lead to fewer opioid-dependent people moving forward, Dr. Kolodny says, “It will have zero effect at reducing those who are already addicted.”
Addiction is a complicated disease that is caused by many contributing factors. To effectively treat an already-present Substance Use Disorder, it must be addressed on multiple levels. The “gold standard” of care is behavioral counseling combined with FDA-approved anti-craving medications.
What is California Doing to Address the Opioid Problem?
“Healthcare prescribers are essential partners in ending this epidemic.”
~ Dr. Karen L. Smith, MD, MPH, Director of the California Department of Public Health
In an open letter dated March 2017, Dr. Smith offered resources to the state’s prescribers. Included was information about:
- Prescribing guidelines
- CURES—California’s official PMP
- How to identify at-risk patients
- Available treatment programs
In 2015, almost 2000 Californians died because of overdoses involving opioids.
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