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Drug Addiction, Facts About Addiction, Substance Abuse  |  March 23, 2016

We have written often that the medical community needs to take responsibility for the current epidemic of painkilling drug addiction in this country.

Why?

Rates of addiction, and overdose deaths from these drugs, are rising sharply across America – rising as the number of prescriptions for these drugs have reached an all time high.

How is it possible prescriptions are rising given all we know about how dangerously addictive these drugs are?

How indeed…

Things are so bad that last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) felt compelled to issue new physician guidelines on opioid painkilling drug prescribing.

The guidelines were released on the same day that medical researchers at the University Of Pennsylvania School of Medicine published new research showing that despite the obvious dangers, physicians are prescribing more opioid painkillers than ever before following common and often simple surgeries.

Let’s repeat that fact…  The dangers of these drugs are clearly known and yet physicians continue to prescribe them at record rates to more and more patients.

To gather their data for the study, Penn researchers looked at patients undergoing common surgeries to see how many of them not on a prescribed opioid painkiller during the six months prior to their surgery received a prescription for one after their surgery.  Researchers found that four out of five of these patients filled a prescription for opioids following their surgery – with the percentage of patients receiving these drugs increasing consistently over the eight years studied.

We are the first to acknowledge the immense power and influence of the big drug companies.  But even with pressure and inducements from these companies, how is it possible that some of the brightest men and women in America – our physician class – can be so dismissive of the dangers associated with these drugs?

And one more thing… the researchers found that not only were the number of prescriptions for opioid drugs rising – but the amount of each drug per prescription was also rising.   That’s correct –

rising

.

Can anything be done to stop this madness?

Well – a number of things are happening that may change the landscape eventually.  First – some in medicine are calling for a complete ban on drug company to consumer advertising.  Only America and New Zealand now allow that practice.  Others feel the CDC must and will act to put mandatory restrictions on these drugs.  The guidelines released last week are purely voluntary.  And finally, consumers are now starting to fight back in self defense by filing law suits against physicians who recklessly prescribe these drugs in the first place.  Over thirty of these suits are pending around the country.  One California doctor is already facing 30 years to life in prison in the deaths of three of her patients after she recklessly prescribed these drugs to each one.

Should it really take the threat of damaging and expensive lawsuits to bring change?  Surely we can do better…

Photo credit: kev-shine via Foter.com / CC BY