Doctors Weigh in on how to Curb the Opioid Epidemic
Earlier this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that there were 28,647 opioid related deaths in 2014. That’s 14 percent more overdoses than in 2013 and three times as many opioid-related deaths than in 2000.
The CDC is in the process of drafting guidelines for the prescription of opioids to help address the epidemic so we wanted to take the pulse of the doctor community on efforts to curb opioid abuse.
The SERMO survey asked doctors what they think is the most important tactic to reduce opioid abuse, inquired about use of the overdose reversing drug Naloxone (Narcan) and prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), who they think should be given prescriptions for opioids and whether they know anyone personally who is suffering or has suffered from addiction to opioids.
Here are the results:
One oncologist said, “It is often impossible to know whether a patient is drug seeking, and it’s hard to deny them pain meds simply because my gut tells me so. PDMPs that are across state lines would help me check my gut reaction and have strong data to decline prescriptions and/or initiate tapers.”
An urgent care physician added, “I am frequently approached by patients with “acute” complaints of pain. Since these patients are usually unknown to me, it is difficult to tell if these are truly “acute” issues versus drug seeking. PDMP is extremely helpful in differentiating these groups and making appropriate decisions.”
In support of more education for physicians, a neurologist said, “Physicians are the gateways to drugs. They have the prescription pad and ultimately they are the ones who make the call. They should be at the frontline of this epidemic and adequate education is required.”
An internal medicine specialist opined, “While there are some patients that need pain medications there are several that have now become addicted and I think physicians need more training in not only how to prescribe pain meds properly but also how to cut back appropriately as well.”
As you can see, doctors were split 50/50 on the topic of Naloxone and whether or not it should be offered over the counter. Here’s what some of the doctors had to say:
An immunologist said, “Any potentially life-saving medication which can be administered by a lay person should be available OTC provided that the pharmacist provides drug information at the time of purchase.”
A family medicine practitioner added, “Heroin addicts could have easy access to this medication. Would prevent many needless deaths from patients who OD whose fellow drug users fail to take to the emergency department or fail to get them there in time.”
“Being too accessible could lead to increased overuse and abuse of opioids and it would take the physician out of the management of an addicted patient who needs further treatment,” another family physician said.
“We cannot just give this out. The users will be even more enabled to continue to use thinking they can take a drug to reverse the effects and ‘make them better’ or ‘save them,’” a gynecologist obstetrician added.
What do you think should be done to prevent prescription drug abuse? Please share your perspectives on the questions we raised in the comments section below.