(Mirror Daily, United States) – Painkiller abuse has become a serious problem in the U.S., but all doctors carry the blame of overprescribing opioids, not just “corrupt pill mills”. Pill mills are the title associated to clinics that hand over painkillers simply to anyone that asks. It makes them easy targets for drug-seekers, and places patients in danger of addiction.
There have been laws put in place and a joined effort to shut down many of these “pill mills” over the years. However, since the mission started in 2011, there has not been much of an improvement. In fact, the numbers of overprescription of opioids has gone down by a mere 2%, which is a near insignificant progress.
In the meantime, abuse of narcotic painkillers went up by 10% in the last two decades, so the problem is growing worse.
That has led to researchers at Stanford University to conduct further investigation into the matter. With more “pill mills” down, the numbers should’ve followed along the same downward trajectory. However, they found that the issue is spread among all practitioners who overprescribe the necessary amount of painkillers.
The team of scientists looked over 56.5 million insurance claims covered by Medicare. They analyzed data from each individual prescriber of painkillers, ranging from physicians, to nurses, or even dentists. Specifically, they targeted drugs such as hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Oxycodin, Percocet), codeine, morphine, opium, and several others.
Their results showed that almost 80% of prescriptions for opiods were given by only 10% of prescribers. The difference means that there is a drastic tendency of overprescribing medication past their use. As found by previous studies, this means they can either cause addiction within the patient, or end up abandoned in their medicine cabinet. From there, other members of their family may snatch it and consume without being doctor recommended.
Based on the insurance claims, they found that family practitioners led the pack in prescribing painkillers. Their numbers reached 15.3 million prescriptions of the total. They were followed by internal medicine with 12.8 million prescriptions, nurse practitioners with 4.1 million, and then assistants of physicians with 3.1 million.
According to Dr. Jonathan Chen, all efforts to cut down on the numbers of overprescribed opioid painkillers need to address all prescribers. The “pill mills” are just one small part of the problem. As stated by Dr. Chen, it may be beneficial to shut them down, but it is certainly not enough to eliminate the problem. In fact, he claims that many doctors add more to the gravity of the issue without even knowing.
Image source: pbinstitute.com
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