When it comes to renewing your prescription for an addictive medication, does your provider automatically send in the script without digging deeper to find out the true state of your health? If so, your physician may be what’s known as a problem prescriber, and you may be at a much higher risk of fatal overdose.
16,000 Fatal Overdoses Annually
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 16,000 people die every year from a fatal overdose from prescription drugs. Although it was once thought that people who overdosed on prescription medications and painkillers secured their drugs through illicit means, the latest research suggests that prescription-happy physicians are fueling what the CDC calls the worst substance abuse epidemic ever.
In Southern California alone, almost half of all people who died from a prescription drug overdose got their drugs through a legitimate prescription. In addition, little attention was paid to databases of prescription records, meaning “reckless prescribers” could continue giving questionable patients a free pass to continue abusing drugs, according to the Los Angeles Times. A Tennessee investigation uncovered similar data, forcing legislators and medical professionals to question their core belief that individuals struggling with prescription drug addiction are using without a doctor’s explicit permission.
How to Reverse the Problem
Many people begin the steep descent into addiction with a simple trip to a pain management clinic. Soon, they find themselves unable to quit. Avoiding withdrawal becomes paramount, and taking more and more drugs just to feel normal is necessary. For too many patients, what should be a temporary solution to a manageable problem becomes a nightmarish trip through addiction, rehab, and recovery.
There is a growing sense of urgency in the medical profession, and attacking the prescription drug epidemic must begin in the doctor’s office. Following the investigation conducted by the Times, the Medical Board of California ordered the development of new guidelines for prescription painkiller prescriptions. Other groups have suggested mandated testing for medical professionals themselves, who are easily able to self-medicate. Improved doctor and patient education outreach on the dangers of prescription drugs — and painkillers in particular — are also in the works.
Until then, the clock is ticking, as every new patient who fills a prescription drug order has at least a small risk of overdosing.