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Too Many Doctors Are Over-prescribing Pain Medication

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not encourage medical professionals to prescribe opioid painkillers for more than three days. However, according to a survey by the National Safety Council, a staggering 99% of all primary care doctors ignore this recommendation.

Not only have doctors been accused of ignoring non-addictive medications, even when they could prove to be just as effective as opioid painkillers, but the propensity that doctors have for prescribing drugs for unsuitable conditions such as dental pain is disturbing.

Many studies have shown that patients who take opiate drugs for the purposes of relieving pain for longer than seven days have a hard time getting off them, a factor that doctors are either unaware of or simply choose to ignore.

When you consider the fact that the proliferation of opioid prescriptions has quadrupled in the last 15 years, the government cannot be faulted for taking what some might consider drastic steps to control the use of opioid prescriptions, with the CDC leading the charge in this area.

There is no denying that opioid prescriptions have contributed to the sharp rise in addictions, this along with the spiking number of deaths related to drug overdoses.

It has always been the norm for doctors to reserve the use of opioids for cancer and end-of-life care; however, very few medical practitioners seem to be following these guidelines from the CDC. According to the National Safety Council, one in five doctors routinely prescribe opioid painkillers for periods lasting up to thirty days, this far exceeding the three days the CDC recommends for patients dealing with short term pain.

Even organizations like the American Academy of Neurology agree that many of the purposes for which doctors prescribe opiates are unsuitable, with the dangers of using opiates to fight headaches, lower back pain and other short-term ailments is more dangerous than the ailments themselves.

Of course, not everyone has accepted or even endorsed the work of the National Safety Council and the damning conclusions they had made about the state of the Medical arena in the United States.

Doctor Debora Clements in particularly, chair of family and community medicine for Northwestern medicine, has been quick to throw doubt over the claims of the National Safety Council, suggesting that the small number of doctors they surveyed couldn’t possibly represent the hundreds of thousands of primary care physicians in the country.

While admitting that, in response to the failures of the medical field in the past to adequately treat the pain of patients, some doctors might have overcorrected, Doctor Clements has also endeavored to shed light on the role of insurance in this situation, explaining that the reluctance by most insurance providers to pay for alternative means of relieving pain such as acupuncture has left doctors with little choice but to prescribe opioid painkillers.

Some voices have suggested that doctors who prescribe opiates should be trained to detect and treat addiction, this ensuring that they take responsibility for any addiction-related complications that might arise whenever they choose to prescribe opioid medications.

One thing is for sure: this is a far more complex issue than doctors simply deciding whether or not to prescribe opiates.


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