Opioid Prescribing Restriction Effectiveness

opioid painkillers

There are now a number of laws in place to stem the flow of opioid painkillers. Proposed prescribing guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) call on primary care physicians to only use opioids as a last resort. If prescription opioids must be used, writing short-term low dose prescription would be ideal. Unfortunately, many doctors are against such arbitrary restrictions, and the American Medical Association (AMA) has vocally disapproved mandates that essentially tell doctors how to treat patients.

While it is somewhat surprising that physicians would like to maintain the status quo with regard to prescribing practices, new research suggests that prescribing limitations may not have the desired effect. In fact, since 2002 there have been 81 laws passed to control prescription opioid use which haven’t reduced misuse or overdoses by disabled Medicare beneficiaries, HealthDay reports. The researchers found that 45 percent of disabled Medicare beneficiaries were still being prescribed opioids in 2012 and eight percent were receiving opioids from four or more doctors. The findings were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“Over a five-year horizon, I am optimistic that legal remedies may help slow the misuse, abuse and overdose deaths related to prescription opioids,” said lead researcher Ellen Meara, a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, N.H. “Unfortunately, the epidemic is spreading and changing rapidly, while the legal response is slow and blunt.” 

However, it is worth noting that this is only one study and there have been several measures taken to tackle the epidemic since 2012. Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, co-director of the John Hopkins Center of Drug Safety and Effectiveness, points out that this is “a rapidly evolving area.”

The passing of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) is expected to yield promise by way of expanding access to addiction treatment services, especially in rural America which has been hit extremely hard by the opioid epidemic. What’s more, with each day that passes it becomes easier to acquire the opioid overdose antidote naloxone in a number of states without a prescription.

We still have a long way to go, considering that we only make up five percent of the world’s population, but America uses 80 percent of the world’s prescription opioid supply. A paradigm shift is required to curb our over reliance on opioid painkillers, there are a number of alternative forms of pain management that are not addictive and do not lead to overdose.

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