Tag Archives: narcotics

Study Recommends Simple Method to Reduce Painkiller Problem

Reduce Painkiller ProblemAs the prescription painkiller opioid epidemic continues, healthcare officials and top leaders in government are scrambling to find effective solutions. Most states have implemented prescription monitoring tools, more doctors are increasing their education regarding painkillers, and hospitals throughout the country have started screening their patients for potential painkiller addictions. One overlooked population includes the large number of people who are prescribed opiates following outpatient surgery. One researcher has identified this as a way to cut down on the number of pills being given to patients.

According to Richard J. Barth, chief of general surgery at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, doctors often prescribe larger numbers of painkillers after surgery as more of a convenience factor. However, reducing the number of visits or steps for a prescription refill has contributed to the painkiller problem in America.

This single action has the potential to have a significant impact on the volume of drugs being legally prescribed – and the subsequent overflow onto the black market. This theory was tested and proven by Dr. Barth and his group of researchers at five outpatient surgery clinics.

Many outpatient surgeries are invasive and the recovery can be difficult and painful. Sometimes patients are given 50 pills or more as part of their post-op care. But upon further inspection, the patients report that they were only taking about 28% of their prescriptions. This is an important factor because it shows that doctors are overprescribing and that because of the all the leftover pills, there leaves room for other people to use the prescription, especially addicts. Barth indicated that most patients really only need an average of about 15 pills, and that switching to non-narcotic pain relievers earlier was very effective.

While conducting their study, which appears in the Annals of Medicine, the researchers asked a group of outpatient surgeons to limit the number of painkillers they were prescribing for many procedures. They found that the patients who received less painkillers recovered quicker and did not ask for refills. The study shows a positive outcome when doctors limit their prescriptions for narcotics and also illustrates the need for more comprehensive studies into the level of pain associated with many outpatient surgeries.

Doctors Focus on Reducing Painkiller Use in Chronic Pain Patients

chronic painA recent study of patients taking prescription narcotics for chronic pain conditions focused on reducing the amount of drugs they were using. The research team, headed by Dr. Beth Darnall, was able to successfully cut down the amount of medication being taken without increasing the intensity of their pain.

Dr. Darnall is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Division of Pain Medicine at Stanford University. She is the author of the book Less Pain, Fewer Pills and is focused on the psychology of pain. Her work is important not just for the help of individual patients to reduce their symptoms, but it can also hold the key to helping to eliminate some of the opioid dependency in our country that starts with chronic pain.

Typically, patients believe that if they take less medication that they will experience more pain, but this research has thus far shown positive results. “A lot of people falsely assume that if you taper off opioids your pain will spike, your depression and anxiety will increase and you will fall apart,” said Dr. Darnall. “They think opioids are holding them together. Our data suggests otherwise.”

The psychology of pain shows that people have different reactions to their pain and can help control their symptoms based o their mindset. Dr. Darnall works with patients to “harness the power of their mind-body connection to reduce suffering, pain and need for medications.”

With overdose deaths reaching new heights around the country, there has been considerable focus of late on reducing the influence and damage that opioids can cause. The CDC recently issued new prescribing recommendations, which included finding non-opioid treatments for mild to moderate chronic pain.

Helping to cut the overall number of pain pills being taken can have a dramatic effect on improving the quality of life for potentially millions of people as well as help save thousands more from addiction.

Many Doctors Still Underestimate Threat of Painkillers

journalofpainNew research shows that some physicians are still struggling with understanding the dangers of overprescribing narcotic painkillers and the mechanism of addiction regarding the opioids. Researchers out of Johns Hopkins University recently polled 1,000 doctors and found that half of them believed that if they prescribed tamper-proof painkillers the chance of abuse is eliminated. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Someone who is prescribed a painkiller like OxyContin, which has a tamper-resistant coating, can still abuse the drug. Tamper-resistant mechanisms were developed to prevent people from crushing the pills and snorting them or injecting them. However, a person who is prescribed these pills can still abuse them, even if simply taking more than the prescribed amount.

“Doctors continue to overestimate the effectiveness of prescription pain medications and underestimate their risks, and that’s why we are facing such a public health crisis,” explained Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. Despite the new safety measures that are being instituted by pharmaceutical manufacturers, people who are taking painkillers are still at risk of abusing them.

The survey showed that a surprisingly large amount of doctors believe that addicts do not take pills orally. However, other studies have shown that the vast majority of prescription drug abusers do take pills by mouth. The information gathered from the survey of doctors shows that increased measures need to be taken in order to further educate the medical community about the nuances of addiction. Many addicts continue to get their drugs from doctors who are fooled into thinking that they have a legitimate complaint and warrant prescription painkillers. It will take the combined efforts of doctors, pharmacists, law enforcement and of course treatment and prevention professionals to significantly reduce the prescription painkiller problem in our country.

U.S. Doctors Cutting Back on Painkiller Prescriptions: Study

jamainternaldec8Nearly half of the physicians surveyed in a recent John Hopkins study said they were less likely to prescribe powerful painkillers than they were just a year ago. And, around half of those surveyed said they were “very concerned” about risks such as addiction, death and traffic crashes associated with narcotic painkiller overuse.

Despite their concerns, nearly nine out of 10 doctors were confident in their own ability to prescribe the drugs appropriately, according to the study published in the Dec. 8 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

“Our findings suggest that primary care providers have become aware of the scope of the prescription opioid crisis and are responding in ways that are important, including reducing their over-reliance on these medicines,” said Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Alexander is also co-director of the Johns Hopkins’ Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness.

Alexander added that the health care community has long been part of the problem, but now the healthcare community appears to be part of the solution to this complex epidemic. He believes doctors and patients need to consider non-narcotic treatments for pain, including other types of pain drugs and non-drug approaches such as physical therapy, massage and acupuncture.

Researchers for the study surveyed 580 internists, family doctors and general practitioners across the country. They found that 85 percent of doctors believe that narcotic painkiller are overused in clinical practice.

Almost two-thirds of the doctors believe that tolerance to the drugs occurs often. Just over half believe that physical dependence is a common problem. And, the doctors said these issues can happen even when these prescription drugs are used as directed to treat chronic pain.

Prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States, federal officials have said. In 2010, prescription narcotics caused many of the more than 38,000 drug overdose deaths that occurred in the United States.

Prescription Narcotics Shown to be Ineffective for Long-Term Pain Relief

Painkillers were originally manufactured and prescribed to handle chronic pain. For patients who did not have illnesses such as cancer but did have chronic back pain or other joint pain, patients with muscle pain or chronic headaches, painkillers were often prescribed to address this pain and allow them to live a normal life. However, painkillers do not do a good job of addressing the pain on an extended period of time, as many patients report increased sensitivity to pain and a need for more of the drugs.

So if painkillers really do not work why are they being prescribed? For some, doctors are just not informed about the risks associated with taking painkillers. Many doctors consider that addiction is a rare side effect, nothing to take too seriously because it is so unlikely to happen. However, this is just simply not true. More and more people are becoming dependent on and addicted to narcotic painkillers after being prescribed the medication from their doctor. There are studies that indicate that over half of the patients who take prescription painkillers for more than three months are still taking the pills five years later. This shows that long-term use means the patient will likely become addicted.

Another reason why prescription narcotics are being given out so much is because patients request them. When a person visits a doctor for a chronic pain problem they often assume they are going to leave the office with a prescription for an opioid like oxycodone or hydrocodone. Doctors often do not want to disappoint them and fulfill the patients requests for some form of immediate relief, which can be understandable. The point isn’t to blame doctors, but just to show there are multiple contributing factors to the problem.

In order to avoid further addictions to painkillers, doctors need to familiarize themselves with the potential for addiction. Other alternatives to chronic pain treatment should be considered either before or along with the prescribing of drugs that have a high potential for abuse. Many people find success in handling their chronic pain by consulting with a physical therapist, exercising more and changing their diet, among several other avenues. These healthier alternatives allow the person to live a life free from addiction while still being able to manage their pain.