In recent years many Americans have suffered through addiction to opioids. Some even describe it as a crisis. There are thousands of opioid related deaths per year in the U.S. alone. As a result of this, many physicians are now shying away from prescribing the drug. This has resulted in a sharp decrease in the level of prescribed opioids nationwide. Yet, the problem still persists. Experts at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have released a comprehensive report explaining why the epidemic continues.
Opioid Prescription Lengths Have Increased
Today, doctors are prescribing opioids for a longer period than they were less than a decade ago. The average length of a prescription is approximately five days longer than it was in 2006.
It’s no secret that the longer a patient takes an opioid the chances of addiction become much more likely. Even an extension of five days gives a patient many more opportunities to develop an uncontrollable addiction. The CDC noted that use of opioids for a period of five days or more correlates with a risk for long-term use. Patients who use them for a three month period are “unlikely to discontinue” using the substance.
The CDC advises health care professionals to limit the initial exposure to opioids. Doing so will make it easier to part with the drug when severe pain management is no longer necessary.
There are Still Too Many Opioid Prescriptions
The drop in the number of opioid prescriptions is not enough, relatively speaking. U.S. doctors prescribe three times the amount of opioids in comparison to physicians in Europe. In 2015 U.S. doctors prescribed these drugs three times as much as they did in the late nineties.
Doctors are Overlooking Safer Options
Physicians want what is best for their patients. In some cases, this means giving patients the most powerful painkillers to ease chronic pain. However, there are many other “softer” painkillers on the market that can meet the need. The CDC claims that some physicians are still not understanding that the benefits of opioids do not outweigh the harms. In most cases, non-addictive drugs such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen are preferable for pain management.
The CDC also states that the link between rural areas and excessive opioid prescriptions may be due to inadequate health care. Doctors may prescribe opioids due to the unavailability of treatments such as physical therapy.
On a Positive Note
The CDC’s report was not all gloom and doom. In 2015 the overall amount of opioids prescribed dropped by 18%. Yet, as mentioned above, there have still been surges of prescriptions in some areas and prescription length has increased. Thus, efforts still need to be made to ensure a more uniform decrease in prescription amounts and duration. The CDC also reported that high-dosage opioid prescriptions have also become less common. High-dosing fell by 41% nationwide.
A Final Word on Opioids
Opioids are effective at reducing pain, but there is a long-lasting trade off. Opioid use can easily spiral into an uncontrollable addiction. Furthermore, addictive drug use can lead to overdoses, and possibly even death.
If you believe you were over-prescribed opioids or you suffer from unexpected side-effects you may have legal recourse. Contact a drug injury lawyer for more information about possible causes of action.
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