Over the last few years, the death rate from opioids fell by an astonishing 25 percent in Oregon; unfortunately, the same cannot be said for most of the country. Before we get to how such a feat was made possible, let’s discuss some of the ways the nation found itself in the midst of an epidemic. Remember, over two-million Americans are struggling with and opioid use disorder, fewer than 1 in 5 receive any treatment, and over a hundred people die each day from an overdose.
Most individuals are privy to the fact that prescription opioid addiction epidemic and heroin scourge is the result of severe over-prescribing. Doctors are not solely responsible, but they play a significant role. It is worth noting that the job of a physician, among other things, is to provide relief whenever possible. A patient is in pain, and a doctor can help ease their discomfort with the aid of opiate painkillers. In most cases, the practice of prescribing opioids in low doses for short durations does not lead to patient problems; however, when doctors prescribe opioids in high doses for months on end, dependence is almost guaranteed.
Despite the writing on the wall, many primary care physicians (PCPs) continue to prescribe in manners what experts can only describe as reckless. To be sure, doctors must consider and treat patient pain, and if they do so at risk of harming their patients, it is problematic. What’s more, merely turning off the fountain is not the solution; instead, primary care physicians must prescribe responsibly, have knowledge about alternative forms of pain management, be able to identify patients with use disorders and refer them to treatment centers. Any failures to provide that kind of support can lead patients to the street in search of illicit drugs.
Doctors Combating Opioid Use Disorder
Health and addiction experts understand how dangerous long-term opioid prescriptions are for patients. The same professionals also know, thanks to tireless research, that drugs like OxyContin are not adequate for treating chronic pain and can worsen one’s symptoms, lead to addiction, and cause an overdose. With that in mind, perhaps you remember the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issuing new prescribing guidelines in 2016? The suggestions were optional, but a vast number of doctors vehemently opposed the guidelines; their argument, primarily, was that they didn’t need instructions and such rules could keep patients from accessing pain care.
Well, it’s now 2018, and not much has changed nationally regarding prescribing practices, except for in a few places, Oregon is one such state. Instead of ignoring the CDC guidelines, a task force came about to put the suggestions into practice with vigor. Doctors in Oregon are using the prescription drug monitoring database which has curbed over-prescribing and doctor shopping. Better educating physicians on pain management has led to relying on opioids less, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. PCP’s are introducing people to alternative pain treatments like acupuncture, sleep, and physical therapy. Teaching patients about proper prescription drug disposal is beneficial, as well.
“There’s this report that says that the average time that it takes guidelines to turn into clinical practice is 17 years. That’s from the Institutes of Medicine,” said Dr. Cat Livingston, a family physician at OHSU’s Richmond Clinic in Portland.
With so many people dying each day, seventeen years is not a realistic time-frame. Livingston says the task force came about to lessen that time. It appears to have worked; a 25 percent reduction is worth taking notice; hopefully, other states will make adjustments.
Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
If you are struggling with opioid addiction, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat. With the assistance of our Chronic Pain and Addiction Treatment Program, you can begin the life-saving journey of lasting recovery, so that you may lead a fulfilling and productive life.