Actual Recommended Prescription Lengths for Painkillers

medicine 2520464 640

medicine 2520464 640

There is a wide gap, a considerable discrepancy, in the average amount, strength, and duration of prescriptions that doctors are giving patients compared to what they should be giving them. Though the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have outlined drug strength recommendations and prescribing guidelines for pharmaceutical companies and doctors to construct their opioid policies around, these guidelines do not get followed to the letter. Not by a long shot.

Chronic pain is one of the most common reasons for seeking medical attention in the U.S. Pain is very frequently treated with opioid drugs, regardless as to whether or not such pain really needs to be treated with opioid drugs or not. In fact, the clinical use of opioid drugs for “pain management” more than doubled between 2000 and 2010. Furthermore, that number is not taking into account the fact that about twenty-five percent of all pain drugs are diverted and used recreationally every year. From 2010 to present day, the use of these substances for ethical and unethical reasons more than doubled again.

Doctors Surveyed

When doctors are surveyed as to how they feel about prescription pain reliever drugs and the problems regarding them, the vast majority of doctors agree that prescription drug abuse is a huge problem, yet the vast majority of them also refuse to admit that they have something to do with that problem.

  • Ninety percent of practicing physicians agree that prescription drug abuse is moderate and even serious in their communities.
  • Eighty-five percent of practicing physicians feel as though opioid drugs are overused in clinical practices.
  • Sixty-five percent of doctors say that they are moderately concerned about the risks of their patients becoming addicted to opioid pain relievers and then facing difficult consequences as a result.
  • Even when their patients used opioid pain relievers exactly as prescribed, physicians noted that sixty-two percent of their patients experienced adverse effects of the drugs, with fifty-six percent experiencing full-on physical dependence to the drugs.
  • Equally concerning is physicians’ confidence in prescribing opioid drugs. Eighty-eight percent of physicians feel confident in their clinical skills in prescribing opioids. Forty-nine percent admitted that they were very comfortable in prescribing opioid drugs for their patients for just about any kind of pain.

Here we have an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, the vast majority of doctors are very, very concerned about their patients having adverse reactions to prescription drugs. However, very few doctors take action to significantly reduce the degree of opioid prescribing done in their practices.

Recommended Prescribing Guidelines for Opioid Drugs

Since 1999, the sale and consumption of opioids have more than quadrupled in the United States. There is something very concerning about that. Has the physical pain that Americans feel on a regular basis increased by four-hundred percent in that time? Absolutely not.

It is important to improve the way that prescription opioids are prescribed in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and family practices. The goal here is to give patients safe pain treatment while also reducing the numbers of people who get addicted to these potentially addictive drugs.

  • There are ways to treat pain, but they are often done wrong. More than two million Americans are currently addicted to opioid pain drugs, with one-hundred and eighty-thousand people dying from overdoses on pain drugs between 1999 and 2015.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid drugs are not to be used as the first line of treatment for chronic pain. The CDC recommends that doctors always approach pain with non-opioid therapies and management techniques long before opioid pain reliever drugs are even considered.
  • The CDC recommends that doctors use immediate release opioids over timed release opioids as much as possible, as these are less addictive. They recommend that doctors prescribe no more opioids than are absolutely necessary, and to taper patient’s dosage down to nothing as soon as possible.
  • CDC guidelines also encourage doctors to more closely evaluate the risk of prescribing opioids to patients. The guidelines discuss evaluating risk through drug testing of individual patients as well as checking the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database for that state. Doctors need to ensure that their patients are not really addicts who are just out “doctor shopping” for more drugs.

The above bullet points are just a glimpse at the long list of guidelines the CDC delivered to pharmacists and doctors all across the country. Now, the challenge remains of getting practitioners all across the nation to follow the guidelines.

Focusing on a Drug-Free Future

The problem in the U.S. when it comes to opiates is that millions of Americans are severely addicted to pharmaceutical drugs that are not only legal but which are also encouraged. These are pill drugs that could and likely will cause serious problems and crisis for addicts unless they get immediate assistance through inpatient treatment programs.

To address these kinds of problems, we need to actually reduce the number of opioid pharmaceuticals and people taking them. There needs to be less open access to these substances because it is that ease of availability and affordability that makes people so likely to take them (and it is the impressive profit margins that make doctors and pharmacists so likely to recommend them).

We need a nationwide shift in our thinking of how we address chronic pain and prescription drugs. As there are alternatives to prescribing opiate painkillers to help people who struggle with pain, there is a good reason for exploring those options first. People need to know that there are holistic methods to approaching pain management, methods that do not involve taking addictive drugs.


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