US sees steep decline in first time opioid prescriptions between 2012 and 2017

US sees steep decline in first time opioid prescriptions between 2012 and 2017

April 23, 2019

US sees steep decline in first time opioid prescriptions between 2012 and 2017

Addiction Substance Abuse

The rate of first-time opioid prescriptions has reduced by around 54 percent between 2012 and 2017 revealed a study conducted on more than 86 million U.S. citizens with private insurance coverage. During this period, the amount of opioids usually recommended for the initial prescription, that is for three days, saw a 57 percent decline. Further, the number of prescriptions offering seven days of opioid abuse treatment therapy reduced by 68 percent.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March 2019, stated that this decline was due to the fact that the number of physicians prescribing an opioid medication to a patient reduced by around 29 percent during the period of study. However, on the flip side, a core group of doctors still continued to prescribe higher doses of opioid drugs, to people who had never used opioids before, extending beyond the usual seven days’ period.

Good news for opioid crisis

Speaking to Reuters Health during a telephonic interview, lead study author Wenjia Zhu said that this study comes as a respite for the ongoing opioid epidemic which has taken over the U.S. She further added that this marked decline in the first-time opioid prescriptions indicated that a lot of providers were changing their opioid prescribing behavior keeping in view the ongoing opioid crisis.

Another senior study author, Nicole Maestas, voiced a similar opinion and expressed her happiness that this progress would give a ray of hope to many people, as providers seemed to have got the message. After analyzing the insurance claims data pertaining to individuals above 15 years of age, the researchers came across 64 million people, not prescribed opioids earlier.

The researchers then tracked those individuals who had received a first-time opioid prescription on a monthly basis. They found that around 1.63 percent patients received a new prescription in July 2012. By December 2017, this percentage dropped to around 0.75 percent. During this time period, around 11 million individuals received first-time opioid prescriptions during the study period.

The bad news

In the midst of this positive news, there was some bad news as well. Some physicians did not exercise control while prescribing first-time opioid drugs, while some others were too scared to prescribe opioids even in cases where it was needed.

Maestas also added that while this decline in prescribing first-time opioid drugs was good, she was not sure if it was the ideal way in terms of rendering opioid therapy. As an outcome of this study, the researchers expected to see the majority of physicians prescribing lower doses of opioid drugs with a shorter duration.

Guidelines laid down by government agencies also helpful

Considering the high rate of prescribing opioids and the ensuing opioid crisis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had issued a set of guidelines for opioid prescription in March 2006. This new set of guidelines had encouraged physicians to restrict patients to a three-day supply of prescription opioids. It had also asked the providers to exercise caution while prescribing more than 50 morphine-milligram equivalent of opioids s per day.

After the issuance of these guidelines, the rate of first-time opioid prescriptions reduced to 3.6 percent in December 2017, registering a decline of 16 percent, from the 4.3 percent, who got prescription opioids between from July 2012 and March 2016.

However, a shortcoming of this study was that the researchers could not ascertain if an opioid prescription was suitable for the degree of pain suffered by a patient. The researchers stated that based on claims data derived from the patients, it was difficult to judge the severity of the pain experienced by them. Also the prescriptions which deviated from the set guidelines may not necessarily be incorrect medically, though they may be associated with a higher level of risk.

Recovering from opioid addiction

The ongoing opioid crisis in the U.S. is posing a huge burden and threat on public health and economic and social welfare. Ironically the number of deaths due to opioid overdose continues to be on the rise. Unfortunately, opioid addiction, like any other kind of addiction, is difficult to overcome on its own. One needs professional assistance to deal with such addiction. Invictus Health Group offers various addiction treatment programs to help people dealing with addiction embrace long lasting recovery.

If you or a loved one is battling an opioid addiction and is looking for a reliable drug treatment center, get in touch with the Invictus Health Group by calling our 24/7 drug addiction treatment helpline 866-548-0190. At Invictus Health Group, we offer comprehensive evidence-based treatment plans for patients dealing with substance abuse issues. You can also chat online with our experts who can guide you with opioid addiction help and suggest various detox programs that are available at our drug rehab centers spread across California.

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