The over-prescribing of prescription painkillers is a serious issue in the United States. Whether they are prescribed for legit pain or for people trying to get the pills for other reasons, opiates are prescribed much too frequently. A study conducted by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Harvard Medical School, and the Cleveland Clinic found a disturbing fact. More than half of all nonsurgical hospital stays are prescribed opioid painkillers. This research was published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.
This statistic is another contributor to the epidemic of painkiller addictions around the US. The study was conducted by reviewing the records of 1.14 million nonsurgical hospital stays from July 2009 to June 2010. The study unveiled that a staggering 51% of these admissions were prescribed opioids at some point during their hospital stay.
There is no question in my mind that the amount of people being introduced to opioids in an inpatient setting will lead to higher abuse rates once on an outpatient regimen. It is highly debatable whether these narcotics are prescribed when they are not necessary. It is hard to measure ones pain as pain tolerance varies between individuals. One person with the same ailment as another may not want prescription painkillers because they can tolerate the pain, while the other may need them. How do you tell a patient that they are not allowed the medication? It is simply a decision that their doctor has to make, and in most cases they will honor the patient by providing them the medication that will help ease their pain.
Due to the major issue with abuse of opioid painkillers, there needs to be more information given to those in hospital settings to educate them on opiate abuse. They need to understand the dangers of taking opiate based prescription painkillers. It may benefit the patient to try non-narcotic pain medications first. If these medications do not help the pain then introducing low dosages of opiate painkillers may be the answer. By trying alternative non-opiate based painkillers, the patient and doctor will have comfort in knowing that they tried other options before jumping right into something that could have terrible consequences.
It may be time for the medical field to try new methods of prescribing painkillers. It's important to stress to all patients that they must be at a certain pain level to receive opioid painkillers. Before the patient is prescribed opiate medications, they must see their doctor who should explain the risks of opiates as well as talk about alternatives to opiods. It may take more time for the patient to receive the medication, but if it is not an an emergency that requires painkillers, over the counter pain relievers should be tried first. Taking the right steps and educating the patients of the dangers of opiates may deter some patients from using them. Every person that is deterred from ingesting opioid painkillers may be a person who has dodged a future of abuse.