Prescription drug abuse has been rising at an alarming rate. But with the recent release of a paper by the American College of Physicians as a response to prescription drug abuse being the number one cause for accidental death, the issue has become the focus of great attention and alarm. Part of the problem is that since these drugs are prescribed by doctors, their usage is generally not scrutinized like illegal drug use is. But a greater number of drugs have been prescribed to meet patient demand, and some of the most popular ones are:
Because so many different groups of people are reliant on painkillers, regulating how they are doled out is a complex issue. The paper by the American College of Physicians is an attempt to start making standard guidelines for doctors to follow about when and how to prescribe drugs that are proving to cause accidental deaths because of abuse.
An Overloaded System
Doctors and medical practices are already overloaded, and many different groups of people use prescription drugs, from people undergoing surgery, to the disabled and elderly. Many times people are able to renew their prescriptions without seeing a doctor simply because of logistics. Because of this, it is hard for doctors to closely regulate and monitor how long a patient should use prescription drugs. It’s also a tricky issue from an ethical point of view, because sometimes patients feel that they need the prescription drugs to cope with chronic pain and have any quality of life. Monitoring prescription drug use brings up many ethical issues on an already overloaded healthcare system.
Another reason why there have been so many prescription drug abuse fatalities is the lengths that people will go to obtain the drugs they believe they will need. In some cases, even if a doctor refuses to prescribe anymore prescription drugs for the patient’s safety, the individual will go to multiple doctors to obtain their drugs. Truly desperate patients might even attempt to go out of state to get multiple prescriptions. This is a major problem that the American College of Physicians tries to address in their paper.
In their paper, the American College of Physicians tries to address key issues and how they should be addressed by doctors to stem the tide of accidental deaths. Specifically they say that doctors should first prescribe prescription drugs that are not addictive, but still can relieve pain.
The paper also cautions doctors to very carefully consider how many painkillers a patient truly needs to maintain a good quality of life while dealing with chronic pain. This is key, because doctors ultimately hold the key to the patient not receiving a copious amount of drugs that can result in addiction. Doctors have the very tricky task of judiciously figuring out the right amount of drugs to dole out to each patient. They are also advised to take into consideration the patient’s history with addiction, and make sure they know that the drugs will not ease all their pain entirely.
And in regards to the problem with multiple prescriptions, the paper advises that there should be state monitoring programs so that patients can’t visit different states to receive multiple prescriptions. The paper is a first step towards finding ways to stem the tide of the rising number of accidental deaths due to prescription drugs. In addition to the doctors, patients should also educate themselves on the dangers they pose to themselves when they become dependent on painkillers. Prescription drugs are only meant as a temporary treatment, and not as a long-term solution to chronic pain.
If you or someone you know is struggling with prescription drug addiction, please contact us.
Cindy Nichols is the founder of 411 Intervention, a full-service intervention resource that helps individuals with addiction issues find treatment solutions. You can see an interview with Cindy here on Recovery Now TV.