Prescribing Opioids—a Hire Wire Act

There is no doubt about two things related to narcotic painkillers: one, they are necessary in some cases for the management of pain; and two, they are overprescribed and widely abused in the United States.

The United States leads the world in the prescribing of opiates to patients. This is an obviously alarming statistic since we do not have some oddly high amount of injuries or chronic pain diseases. Our doctors simply hand them out more than other countries.

Opioid drugs include medications like morphine and oxycodone as well as illegal narcotics like heroin.

The prevalence of opiate use in the US is nearly 6 percent. In other developed western nations, like Canada, it’s only 1 percent.

In 1999, about 7,500 people died from opioids and other prescription medication. In 2014, it was more like 25,000 people.

Not shocking enough? Overdoses from opioid painkillers result in 40 people dying every day in America, according to the CDC. And each year, 2 million people abuse or misuse the drugs.

If someone mentioned that 40 people a year die from a popular medication, it should be alarming enough.

Luckily, this epidemic of mass prescribing has caught the attention of doctors, scientists, and the public around the world.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published guidelines for prescribing opioid painkillers to address the widespread issue causing so many deaths and overdoses.

According to the CDC, prescription painkillers should not be the first choice for treating common problems, like back pain and arthritis. Their plan, through these federal guidelines, is to reshape how doctors prescribe drugs like OxyContin and Percocet.

They are also urging primary care doctors to try other modes of treatment first, before resorting to the dangerous medication. Treatments like physical therapy, exercise, and over-the-counter pain medications should be attempted before painkillers are even considered.

State lawmakers have even begun responding to the crisis by introducing different bills in an attempt to restrict mass prescribing.

Likewise, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is encouraging the makers of these drugs to design more tamper-resistant products. This is in an effort to prevent those who do abuse the drug from snorting, injecting, smoking, or otherwise using the medication in an unsafe, non-prescribed way.

Despite regulations from the FDA, laws passed, and other reforms, most experts agree that these new CDC guidelines are some of the most comprehensive efforts to address the growing issue. The problem is, all their guidelines must be voluntary since doctors have the right to decide what is best for their patients.

The guidelines do exclude chronic pain like cancer and end-of-life care.

In 2014, U.S. doctors wrote nearly 200 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers. A number that should seem outrageous to most since there are only 318 million people in the US. That’s enough prescriptions of a habit-forming narcotic that 2 out every 3 people in the US could have one.

Management of chronic pain should be carefully calculated, using experience and science to hone the best treatment.

The guidelines are specifically targeted at family doctors since they write the vast majority of prescriptions for painkillers. As mentioned above, the CDC recommends opioids only be prescribed after other therapies have failed and then only rely on the lowest possible dose.

When they are prescribed, the CDC suggests that the treatment is short-term—three to seven days. The overriding concern is that patients who take opioids for extended periods are much more likely to become addicted.

And that is exactly what happens.

Dolman Law Group had the chance to speak with a person once addicted to the prescription medications OxyContin and Dilaudid. In this candid interview, the now 4-year sober ex-addict said that it only took him using the strong medication once to be addicted. After that, he knew he wanted more, but had no idea about the path he was heading down. It’s now been six years later since he got sober, but only after spending tens of thousands of dollars, taking countless other medications to deal with withdrawals, and spending weeks in agonizing pain. Not to mention the damage done to his finances, relationships, and reputation.

Although this person’s experience is not everyone’s experience, it is a lot of people’s. Many of whom were not sure what they were getting themselves into at the beginning.

“We don’t want people getting more opioids than needed,” said the director of the CDC, Dr. Houry, in an interview published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “We want people to have a proper course of treatment, but still want patients and health care providers to use caution.”

Another major issue that narcotic painkillers is causing is the spike in people who are using actual heroin and other hard drugs. This is often because a dependence on painkillers becomes so strong, that in an absence of that medication, users will do anything possible to get any opioid, including using things like black tar heroin.

According to the CDC, deaths related from heroin have increased 400% in the last couple of years. This is due to the crack down on prescription medications (which just shows how big the issue is) and a lack of experience with hard narcotics since those resorting to heroin are used to more steady doses decided in a factory.

The CDC has encountered considerable resistance from some patient groups after a preliminary version of the guidelines was leaked online last fall, according to The groups argued that the CDC was relying on fragile evidence to create their recommendations. They also feared that some patients would be denied needed pain treatment as a result of these issues.

Quite simply, nobody wants to see patients go without treatment. And everyone can agree that patients who need the medication shouldn’t have to go without.

But doctors—and patients—need to make more thoughtful decisions before prescribing and agreeing to take the medication. Most people assume that because a doctor prescribes something, it must be safe. This is most definitely not always true.

So before you take a painkiller for an injury, think about the consequences. And if you do need the medication, be your own best advocate by trying to take as little as possible for as short of a period as possible. That way, people like you with real injuries who just need relief don’t risk becoming another statistic.

Dolman Law Group

Dolman Law Group is a personal injury firm in the New Port Richey area of Florida. We routinely litigate all kinds of injury and accident cases with a focus on getting big firm results with a small firm personal touch. Please give us a call today for a free consultation if you have any questions or concerns about an accident or injury. We look forward to helping you.

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 853-6275