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Health provider awareness can curb prescription drug abuse: Study

Health provider awareness can curb prescription drug abuse: Study

03-23 | CDAH Team

The problem of prescription drug abuse and overdose is multi-faceted due to the presence of multiple drivers associated with increased use. Broadly, it involves consumption of any form of recreational or therapeutic drug outside of a physician’s supervision.

Looking at the scenario, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued recommendations on March 15, 2016 for prescribing opioids for chronic pain. According to the recommendations, clinicians should first opt for non-opioid pain relievers or non-pharmacological methods such as exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy.

Stressing on the role of healthcare providers, a study was done by the School of Public Health and the Department of Sociology at Georgia State University, U.S., to prove that physicians play a critical role in prescription drug misuse and abuse prevention.

The study, published in the journal Pain Physician Journal in February 2016, said that medical practitioners can screen their patients to identify signs of prescription drug abuse or dependence, and can have a detailed talk with them about the negative effects of misusing prescription drugs.

The study

The study’s lead author Dr. Eric Wright, a professor with appointments in Health Management & Policy and Sociology at Georgia State University, along with his colleagues, surveyed nearly 6,000 doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, dentists and pharmacists in Indiana about their views on specific knowledge and skills associated with safely prescribing opioids for chronic pain, and clinical strategies for managing challenging patient situations.

The researchers said that most of the doctors surveyed indicated their concerns about community prescription drug abuse, but a few of them disagreed with them and were relatively unconcerned.

As has been noted, nearly all prescription drugs involved in overdoses are mostly prescribed by medical practitioners, and that being the case, more than three out of four people who misuse prescription pain relievers use drugs prescribed for someone else. Precisely, opioid pain relievers are considered to be the most widely prescribed class of medications in the U.S.

“Our research suggests that a number of health care providers already have voluntarily begun to change their prescribing and dispensing practices in ways that may be reducing the supply of scheduled prescriptions in communities.  This research underscores the critical importance of engaging health care providers fully in public health efforts to reverse the course of the prescription drug epidemic,” the researchers concluded.

The way forward

The latest study reiterates the fact that prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in the US, posing the greatest risk to white men and rural residents. According to the CDC, prescribers may also contribute to opioid abuse and overdose because of a lack of education and awareness about appropriate opioid prescribing practices.

This means most opioid analgesics in the U.S. are prescribed by primary care physicians, who don’t have an adequate training in pain management or addiction. To combat the rising epidemic, Colorado set a goal of preventing 92,000 Coloradans from engaging in non-medical use of prescription pain medications by 2016, lowering the current misuse rates from 6 percent to 3.5 percent.

Prescription drug addiction treatment help should come from physicians who have adequate training in both pain management and substance abuse. Healthcare providers need to identify patients who stand at a greater risk of abuse and also ensure that those treated with opioid receive only the required quantity of medication.

Any gap in their knowledge could be detrimental and lead to abuse of the prescribed drugs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers prescription drug abuse as a major health concern in the country. To address this issue, there has to be a collective effort from public healthcare providers at the federal, state and local level.

If you or your loved one is grappling with a prescription drug abuse, the Colorado Drug Addiction Helpline can connect you to the best possible deaddiction treatments that can help you achieve sobriety. You may call our 24/7 helpline at 866-218-7546 or chat online for further information.


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