dglobalnews.com Opioid Prescriptions Have Dropped But Remain High: CDC
Published: Sat, July 08, 2017
Medical | By Benjamin Edwards

Opioid Prescriptions Have Dropped But Remain High: CDC

Opioid Prescriptions Have Dropped But Remain High: CDC

The United States has seen a decrease in the amount of opioids prescribed in recent years, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2015, the highest prescribing counties gave out six times more opioids than those with the lowest rates.

But the total amount of opioids prescribed in 2015 was still about three times that of 1999, the CDC researchers said, with many people being provided lengthy prescriptions of the narcotics at high doses.

Although there has been a gradual drop in prescriptions for opioids in the United States since 2010, the number of prescriptions written for painkillers is three times as high as it was in 1999, according to a new government report.

State health officials have been pushing providers to limit the use of opioids to treat chronic pain amid an opioid epidemic that's swept the country.

And from 2010 to 2015, Martinsville, like half the jurisdictions studied by the CDC, actually saw a decrease in opioids prescriptions, from 5,200 milligram equivalents per person to 4,090. To level the playing field among various drugs and doses, it used what's known as the morphine milligram equivalent, which measures potency.

Daily MME per prescription remained stable from 2006 to 2010 and then decreased 17% from 2010 to 2015 (from 58 MME to 48).

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Overall, the analysis found that the amount of opioids prescribed fell 18 percent from 2010-2015, though it increased in 23 percent of the counties.

With opioid prescriptions being so varied and widespread across the country, the CDC recommends health providers be more judicious in prescribing powerful painkillers. Doctors and pharmacists will also have to check the system every 90 days in hopes of cutting back on doctor shopping by patients trying to get multiple prescriptions. Physicians must also lead efforts to reverse the opioid epidemic by using prescription drug monitoring programs, eliminating stigma, prescribing the overdose reversal drug naloxone, and enhancing their education about safe opioid prescribing and effective pain management. Based on its analysis, the CDC says more than 2 million Americans who consumed prescription opioids had an opioid use disorder.

Almost 2 million Americans are addicted to prescription opioids, and three out of four new heroin users start with prescription drugs, which is why opioid prescribing practices are a concern for public health officials. A previous study from the CDC found that prescriptions for eight or more days increased the likelihood of using a drug a year later to 13.5%.

People were also being prescribed the drugs for longer periods of time at higher dosages, giving patients more of a chance to become addicted. Schuchat believes these sets of guidelines triggered some improvement, which is reflected in the new report.

The study also did not identify whether reducing the number of prescriptions translates directly to an overall reduction in the number of people abusing opioid drugs. Opioids are derived naturally or synthetically from the opium poppy. "We're still seeing too many people get too much for too long". The move decreased opioid prescriptions in 85% of the 88 OH counties and in 62% of the 114 Kentucky counties examined.

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