Despite the warnings and some 130 overdose deaths per day in America, surgeons still prescribe painkillers at alarming rates. A new report from Kaiser Health News (KHN) and Johns Hopkins shows that they are prescribing many times the recommended number of opioids.
Surgeons continue to prescribe far more opioids for post-op pain than recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The findings come from an analysis of the latest available data, including 350,000 prescriptions written for patients operated on by nearly 20,000 surgeons from 2011 to 2016.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, together with KHN, found that doctors performing surgeries are ignoring current guidelines from several academic medical centers. The article points out that while opioid manufacturers have received the market share of the blame for the epidemic, the contribution to the crisis by physicians is mostly disregarded.
In some ways, it’s hard to imagine a doctor prescribing massive amounts of opioids for less painful procedures. Physicians know the addictive nature of opiates; they must exercise the utmost discretion when treating minor injuries. Writing smaller prescriptions and then refilling them as needed mitigates the risk of abuse or drug diversion.
In 2016, some coronary artery bypass patients took home upwards of 105 opioid pills, according to the article. The highest prescribing doctors performing a lumpectomy to remove a breast tumor doled out 40 to 70 pills on average. Researchers found that some knee surgery patients received prescriptions for more than 100 pills to take home.
The data being a few years old does not mean that prescribing practices are significantly better today. Dr. Chad Brummett, an anesthesiologist and associate professor at the University of Michigan, says:
“When prescribing may have been five to 20 times too high, even a reduction that is quite meaningful still likely reflects overprescribing.”
A Global Opioid Addiction Epidemic
The United States accounts for a small percentage of the world’s population; however, we consume the bulk of all prescription opioids. Still, that does not mean that the crisis we face is specific to America.
Yesterday, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) published its 2019 World Drug Report. The UNODC estimates the number of people who’ve used opioids at 53 million globally, up 56 percent from previous projections. The UN estimates that 35 million people are suffering from substance use disorders.
The scourge of opioid use in the USA has had a terrible effect, even though America has the infrastructure in place to address the problem. The same cannot be said for North Africa and the Middle East, where the opioid tramadol is heavily abused. Access to evidence-based treatment services is limited; only one in seven people with drug use disorders receive treatment each year.
Both methamphetamine and cocaine use are on the rise as well. Meth seizures are up both in Asia and here at home. Coca bush cultivation and cocaine production reached record highs in 2017.
“The findings of this year’s World Drug Report fill in and further complicate the global picture of drug challenges, underscoring the need for broader international cooperation to advance balanced and integrated health and criminal justice responses to supply and demand,” said Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director.
If you would like to read the full UNODC report in full, please click here.
Central California Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat can help you or someone you love detox from opioids and begin a remarkable journey of recovery. We utilize evidence-based therapies to treat opioid addiction and help clients heal. Please contact us at any time to discuss treatment options with our recovery staff. 866-273-0868