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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.