Opioid use disorder most often begins with prescription painkillers, either prescribed by a doctor or diverted from a friend or family member. Opioid narcotics like oxycodone and hydrocodone are highly addictive. The former medication has made a lot of news in recent years owing to the litany of lawsuits filed against the maker of OxyContin.
While the practice of prescribing opioid painkillers for all types of pain is still a significant concern, there is evidence that abuse is on the decline. More than 168 million total opioid prescriptions were written by doctors in 2018.
The above number is much better than six years earlier when, in 2012, more than 255 million opioids were prescribed. That’s 81.3 prescriptions per 100 persons compared to 51.4 prescriptions per 100 persons in 2018.
Prescription opioid reductions from 2012 to 2018 is likely the result of more discerning prescribing guidelines, alternative methods of pain management, and the use of prescription drug monitoring programs. The reduction in opioids prescribed is worth acknowledging, but several counties in the U.S. are not faring so well.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 11 percent of U.S. counties, doctors wrote enough opioid prescriptions for every person to have one. The finding is a testament that a more significant effort is needed to educate physicians on the dangers of prescription painkillers. In 2018, two-thirds of drug overdose deaths involved an opioid.
Prescription Opioid Abuse Declines
An analysis of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicates that prescription opioid abuse decreased by more than one-quarter between 2007 and 2018, HealthDay reports. The annual NSDUH survey involves roughly 70,000 Americans. Individuals who take part are asked about their use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
“Prior research has shown slight reductions in abuse rates, but our analysis shows we’re tracking statistically significant year-to-year declines in abuse, indicating that the decrease is not an anomaly and truly represents a trend in falling prescription drug abuse levels,” said study author Mario Moric, a biostatistician at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “We believe the message of the dangers of opioid use without supervision of a medical professional is finally getting through and changing people’s mindset and behavior.”
Data indicates that 4.9 percent of participants reported misusing prescription opioids in 2007. According to researchers, in 2018, 3.7 percent of respondents abused opioid narcotics, a 26 percent reduction. The findings will be shared at the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ annual meeting, which will occur virtually due to COVID-19.
“Pain medications such as opioids are an important resource in the treatment and care of patients, but they are not a cure-all,” said study co-author Dr. Asokumar Buvanendran, chair of the American Society of Anesthesiologists Committee on Pain Medicine and executive vice chair of anesthesiology at Rush University Medical Center.
Prescription Opioids Are Not a Panacea
People who undergo surgery may require prescription opioids for a time following the procedure. However, such drugs are not the best choice for long-term, non-palliative pain management. Research suggests that opioids are not optimal for managing chronic pain, even though they are often the go-to option.
Studies have shown that long-term opioid use can worsen one’s pain. Patients who are given the option of opioid-alternatives may fare better. Physical therapy, yoga, and acupuncture have shown to be useful measures against chronic pain. They may help individuals who are about to undergo surgery.
A new study involving veterans who are about to have hip-replacement surgery has some interesting findings. Researchers found that acupuncture before surgery could reduce the need for opioids following the procedure. Veterans receiving acupuncture before surgery reported less pain and needed far fewer opioids after the operation.
“Six percent of patients given opioids after surgery become dependent on them, and Veterans are twice as likely to die from accidental overdoses than civilians,” said Brinda Krish, D.O., lead author of the study and an anesthesiology resident at Detroit Medical Center, “Clearly it is crucial to have multiple options for treating pain, and acupuncture is an excellent alternative. It is safe, cost effective and it works.”
Chronic Pain & Addiction Treatment Program
At Hemet Valley Recovery Center, we have a program for men and women who struggle with chronic pain and prescription opioid addiction. We help clients break the cycle of addiction and create an alternative pain management treatment strategy that doesn’t involve using opioids. Please contact HVRC today to learn more about our programs and services.